Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney Pictures
Plot Summary: Alice, now 19, tumbles into Wonderland again, and is the only one who can step in and fight the Red Queen’s monster to save Wonderland from her terrible rule.
Reason for the Rating: Fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.
Alice is now 19 and finds herself, to her surprise, at her own engagement party. She’s not one for conventions, like her pesky corset and stockings, and so hardly swoons when a lord asks for her hand in marriage in front of a hundred expectant guests.
But, easily distracted by fancy, she leaves her suitor at the gazebo to chase a white rabbit in a waistcoat, and (she really should remember this and be more careful) falls down a rabbit hole into Wonderland.
But in Wonderland…properly called Underland…she finds herself faced again with every one else’s expectations on her—the inhabitants of Underland hope she is the Alice, the one prophesied about who will kill the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky and restore the crown to the benevolent White Queen (Anne Hathaway).
Alice, unsure she is that Alice, slowly takes steps of bravery, such as trying to free the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) from the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), that eventually lead to her choosing her own heroic destiny.
This movie is visually beautiful. Burton is at home with the creepy, but manages to not make Alice seem like just one more visual revision of Nightmare Before Christmas. The world is unique and surprising and fun.
The characters in Alice in Wonderland are delightful. Who knew the Red Queen, so hated from childhood, could be a humorous and somewhat sympathetic (if neurotic) evil villain. Or the Mad Hatter, mainly annoyingly nonsensical in the original, could become a brave but scared friend to Alice, whose flashes of humanity are seen amidst his being completely bonkers. And Alice herself (Mia Wasikowska) is lovely in every sense of the word.
Herein lies why some will take offense at Disney’s reimagining of Alice. Lewis Carroll’s story was pure nonsense and whimsy and didn’t by any means bow down to our own desire for story or even likable characters. This is perhaps why so many children do not actually like this children’s story. But in this film Burton has imbued into, or perhaps imposed upon, Alice with a story arc, dramatic tension, meaning, and good characters. Some would say this ruins Carroll. I would say it makes a classic story appeal to a broader audience.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, besides being beautiful and fun and funny, bows to modern-day story conventions, which in this case is a good thing.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• Alice didn’t want to do things just because everyone thought she should, like wear corsets. Is there something like this that everyone around you does and expects you to do also?
• If you were Alice, would you have been brave enough to come forward as the champion? Why or why not?
Note: All movie-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective movie studios.