“Alice in Wonderland” is one of the best children’s movies I’ve ever seen. I loved it, as did my kids and their cousins, ages seven to three.
Full disclosure: I’ve always been partial to Alice. I named my second daughter after the heroine (and also after my smart and brave mother-in law.)
There are a few things straight up that are rare and remarkable about Tim Burton’s movie.
1) There is a girl in the title that is not a princess
2) There are 4 major female roles: Alice, the Red Queen, the White Queen, and the Doormouse
3) Spoiler alert: the movie doesn’t end in a happy romance. Even though it begins with an engagement party, it finishes with Alice off on her own, pursuing her brilliant idea to improve her late father’s business.
The movie is beautiful and exciting to watch. I especially loved Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Unlike “Coraline,” which I also loved, “Alice” has scary parts, but was not too scary for my kids. (Ok, one cousin fled briefly, but she came right back in.) All the children were mesmerized by one of the last scenes, another spoiler alert coming, when Alice slays the Jabberwocky, the dragon like creature/pet of the evil Red Queen.
Which brings me to angry criticism I’ve read of “Alice” all over the internet: the movie is unfaithful to the original books. Some react to Burton’s interpretation as if it’s a personal betrayal, unable to see anything positive in this rebellious movie. For example, in the original Through the Looking Glass, there is a poem where a brave boy kills the Jabberwocky. Now it’s Alice. Horrors!
Re-interpretation is what keeps stories alive across generations. They’re basically just a few myths out there (haven’t these guys read their Joseph Campbell?) that keep getting recycled. Mostly, these days, people don’t believe in privileging the author’s interpretation anyway; it’s a limited idea. Why get so pissed off that Tim Burton has his way with a story, transforming “Alice” into an exciting tale about girl empowerment, instead of staying loyal to the writer, Lewis Carroll, who was a well know as a pedophile or at least a passionate collector of erotic images of little girls?
When I saw the commercials I was worried Tim Burton wasn’t going to make this kind of brave film. As I wrote about in other posts on my blog, most of the advertisements around San Francisco didn’t show Alice, but Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. I worried he would be the star. A couple ads showed Helena Boham Carter as the Red Queen. Her make up is fabulous, but where was Alice?
Also, the commercials on TV showed Alice being proposed to at an engagement party, so I thought it might somehow be another girls’ movie about a wedding. I was wrong on both counts, and now I feel like if that kind of advertising gets people to see this great movie– who cares? “Alice” does feature a stellar ensemble cast, but everyone, even Johnny Depp, is clearly in a supporting role to Alice. And watching the shy Alice transform into an entrepreneur at the end of the move is pretty cool.
We didn’t watch it in 3D; we’re all kind of sick of 3D, the gimmickiness of it and wearing the annoying glasses. Those special effects are not needed to make this movie visually fabulous.
I am really impressed Tim Burton pulled this off. “Alice in Wonderland” gets a ***GGG*** rating.