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“Alice In Wonderland" - {Blu-ray} - (Three-Disc Combo) - (Chris)
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Disney
Release Date:
Special Features:

Digital Copy/Finding Alice/The Mad Hatter/The Futterwacken Dance/The Red Queen/Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen/The White Queen/Scoring Wonderland/Effecting Wonderland/Stunts Of Wonderland/Making the Proper Size/Cakes of Wonderland/Tea Party Props


It was only a matter of time before a director as visually inclined as Tim Burton would latch onto "Alice in Wonderland," quite possibly one of the most vivid and stirring fairy tales of the last century and a half. Indeed, it has given Burton whole new vistas to explore; never before has his imagination been so fully realized, so finely detailed, so delightfully eccentric. In some ways, he has been set free, the computer technologies of today's day and age having finally caught up with the vision in his mind's eye. He and his team have thoroughly created a world of phantasmagoric delights, a successful blend of live action, computer animation, and performance capture all distorted into wonderfully weird settings and characters. As an added bonus, all of this is presented in 3-D, which doesn't assault our eyes so much as envelope us, like a blanket.***

The problem is that Burton insisted on creating a story. Despite the classic title, this is not an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" or "Through the Looking Glass." It's in fact, for lack of a better term, a third chapter, one that disregards Carroll's literary nonsense in favor of a generic Good vs. Evil fable. There are heroes and villains where none existed before. Alice, once just a curious little girl, is now conditioned to be a champion, which means she will go through a series of challenges before having to engage in a battle to the death. Most importantly, there's now a beginning-middle-and-end plot rather than a series of vignettes. All of this is done well, and it will play even better if a traditional story is what you crave.***

But that's the thing - the story as Carroll intended it was NOT traditional. That's what made it so appealing, I think. Giving this movie a conventional storyline is sort of like providing an answer to the riddle of why a raven is like a writing desk. It takes the fun out of it.***

In this version, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a nineteen year old young woman who, after having visited Wonderland thirteen years earlier, has been plagued by strange dreams. This is of no consequence to her family or friends, all Victorian in every sense of the word - prim, proper, and snooty. They only want her to find the right suitor, and lo and behold, they have arranged an engagement party for her and her intended, the hopelessly uptight Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill). But ... what's that off in the distance? Why, it's the White Rabbit! And he's nervously tapping on a pocket watch, as if to say he's late, he's late for a very important date. Alice uses this as an opportunity to flee, and in due time, she peers into a rabbit hole, loses her grip, and falls down, down, down.***

In the blink of an eye, she finds herself in a locked chamber. The only way out is through a tiny door, the key of which rests on a very large table. After a few hits and misses with a shrinking "Drink Me" potion and an enlarging "Eat Me" cake, she unlocks the door and finds herself back in Underland. Really? Not Wonderland? No. Underland. Anyway, the citizens of this world desperately need Alice's help: The wicked, big-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has overthrown her sister, the overly dramatic White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and now rules Underland with an iron fist. If Alice can obtain a magical sword and slay the dreaded Jabberwock, everything will return to normal. Unfortunately, Alice doesn't remember ever having been here, nor does she remember the many colorful residents. As far as she's concerned, this is all a dream.***

Naturally, every creature or person Alice meets is strange, if not altogether insane. To start with, there's the Mad Hatter, played by Burton regular Johnny Depp. As usual, he completely disappears into his role, letting the character emerge through inhuman eyes, deranged clown makeup, a mismatched wardrobe, and a voice that alternates between a foppish lisp and a William Wallace imitation. Why the different voices? Because he's mad, I guess. There's also Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas), who look like a cross between Humpty Dumpty and Pugsley Addams. There's the sly, sneaky Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), who freely appears and disappears in a puff of smoke and lets his extra wide smile linger a moment or two more than necessary. There's the arrogant Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), the enigmatic Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman), and the March Hare (voiced by Paul Whitehouse), who's absolutely off his rocker.***

Special Features:

Digital Copy/Finding Alice/The Mad Hatter/The Futterwacken Dance/The Red Queen/Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen/The White Queen/Scoring Wonderland/Effecting Wonderland/Stunts Of Wonderland/Making the Proper Size/Cakes of Wonderland/Tea Party Props

Final Words:

There are many things about "Alice in Wonderland" to praise. It's a stunning technical achievement, not only for the computer artists, but also for cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Robert Stromberg, and costume designer Colleen Atwood. The performances are decent; I particularly enjoyed Anne Hathaway, who plays the White Queen with the exaggerated poise of a Disney princess. But I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by the story. Tim Burton has taken two highly off-the-wall tales and forced them to be ordinary. I think part of the reason many of us grew up on Carroll's books is because they were anything but ordinary - all character, setting, and manipulation of logic. I can't speak for everyone, but for my money, I'd rather not know why a raven is like a writing desk.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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