tek's rating:

Alice in Wonderland (PG)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 2010, but I didn't see it until 2023. For some time I thought I'd include it as one of Disney's live-action remakes of animated movies, but it's really more of a sequel than a remake. Does it really work as a sequel to Disney's 1951 film? I don't know. Probably not really. I should also say I thought I'd put my review under "fantasy films", but upon finally watching it I decided to go with "weird movies" instead. Because damn. And oh yeah, I'm being slightly generous with my rating of one smiley. But hey, it was directed by Tim Burton and has music by Danny Elfman. It has... interesting visuals, including both makeup and a ton of CGI. It was released in 3-D, but I only saw it in 2-D.

The movie begins with Charles Kingsleigh talking to some other men about a risky business venture, when his young daughter, Alice, walks into the room after having had a nightmare. Charles takes her back to bed and when she tells him about her recurring dream, the details will sound very familiar to anyone who's ever read or seen any adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". She's worried that she's gone crazy, and her father says she has, but that so have all the best people, which reassures her.

Thirteen years later (coincidentally the same number of years between the movie coming out and my seeing it), Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a young woman with a good imagination and modern sensibilities, to the consternation of those around her. Her father has recently passed away, and her mother obviously isn't as understanding as he had been. Now she's expected to marry a lord named Hamish Ascot (the son of Charles's business partner), though he's clearly a terrible match for her. Alice doesn't feel ready to respond to his proposal, and runs away, chasing a white rabbit she had seen. She falls down a rabbit hole, and finds herself in Underland, where many of the strange creatures she meets remember having met an Alice long ago, and wanted to bring her back, but they're unsure whether this Alice is the Alice. She herself believes all this to be a dream.

The most important character she meets is the Mad Hatter. Others she meets include Tweedledee and Tweedledum (played by Matt Lucas, who I mainly know from Doctor Who, in a combination of CGI and live-action), and completely CGI characters including the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen, who I mainly know from Good Omens), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), a caterpillar named Absolem (Alan Rickman), and a dormouse named Mallymkun. They all want Alice to slay the Jabberwocky, a sort of dragon that works for the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, with a digitally enlarged head), who had stolen the crown from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Alice has no interest in battling the Jabberwocky, but she goes along with her "dream", just waiting to wake up. The Red Queen sends a knave named Stayne (Crispin Glover, from Back to the Future) to hunt Alice down, with the help of a bloodhound named Bayard (voiced by Timothy Spall), who is actually a messenger for the Resistance, and only works for Stayne because he is holding Bayard's wife and puppies prisoner.

Well, a lot of stuff happens that I don't want to spoil. Of course Alice eventually realizes the dreams she's had since childhood were actually memories of Underland (which as a child she called "Wonderland"). And there's a battle between the armies of the White and Red Queens, while Alice does in fact battle the Jabberwocky (voiced by Christopher Lee), and defeats him. (I thought the whole thing with everyone wanting her to kill the Jabberwocky when she didn't really want to was an interesting possible parallel to everyone in her world wanting her to marry Hamish, when she didn't really want to. And defeating the Jabberwocky in Underland may have given her the courage to say no to Hamish when she returned to her world.) Um, I also wanted to say I liked Alice talking about "believing six impossible things before breakfast", which of course put me in mind of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. (It's an expression that came from one of the "Alice" books originally, but the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books are where I first remember reading it.) And after defeating the Jabberwocky and restoring the crown to the White Queen, she does return home, and makes some positive changes in her life. Yes, I definitely liked how the movie ends. And I suppose I liked at least a bit of the stuff that happens throughout the movie, but mostly I'm afraid I found it kind of "meh". There is a sort of randomness to it all that worked okay in the 1951 animated film, but not as well here, I felt. It's a shame, because I often quite like "weird" stuff, and I'm not sure why I didn't like it so much in this movie.

Followed by "Alice Through the Looking Glass", which I'll probably watch someday.

weird index

movies and shows inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

movies: Alice in Wonderland (1951) * Alice in Wonderland (2010)
TV movies & miniseries: Alice in Wonderland (1985) * Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) * Alice in Wonderland (1999) * Alice (2009)
TV shows: Adventures in Wonderland * Once Upon a Time in Wonderland