“Burton is bonkers. But most great people are.”

Tim Burton producing and directing a 3D version of the Carroll classic ALICE IN WONDERLAND just makes sense. Very few filmmakers have the vision, style and off the wall imagination to do the story justice. The question is how much is too much and at what point do you go from creative movie making to hallucinogenic mayhem? This might be as close to a drug trip as many will ever encounter. But it is a safe one to be sure.

In this telling, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) falls down the rabbit hole as a 19 year old girl. She is fairly certain it is simply a dream revisited but as things progress she soon wonders if it is destined reality. Wonderland is under the reign of the red queen who has the big head. Literally. Everyone is looking to Alice to not only save the day but right things all together. To do this she has to discover who she really is and what she is capable of accomplishing.

The casting of this film had to be perfect. You can’t have the over the top world that Burton conceives without actors who understand and interpret that vision while delivering its meaning. For the two principal characters he relies on the past partnerships of Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen). They are both as bonkers as Burton which makes a film like this sizzle. Depp does what he always does and makes a simple character memorable. He is truly mad. Carter is a scene stealer who must truly love her husband (Burton) to allow him to do such things to her for the sake of entertainment. Relative newcomer Wasikowska is a fabulous Alice. She embodies both a porcelain charm and a resourceful spirit that works beautifully.

All the cast of characters are here including March Hare, Cheshire Cat and The Tweedles. Nothing is spared when it comes to making each of these fanciful folks unique and unforgettable. Burton relies on his signature set design and you see his fingerprint all over this one. His use of exaggerated features, odd camera angles and vibrant colors make every scene pop. Add to that the music of Danny Elfman which brings a depth to the movement and an almost subliminal whimsy.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND is rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar. The images are pretty intense and so if your kid jumps at his or her own shadow you might want to take note of that. Alice has to battle things that could have come from Tolkien’s underworld and they are loud and forceful. The dialogue and theme are safe although some of it might fly right over younger viewer’s heads. I give it 4.5 out of 5 bites of cake. Although it was a bit much at times, I feel that Burton did justice to Wonderland. If I ever fall down a rabbit hole I hope to find my adventure similar to the one he has created here. In the words of The Mad Hatter, “There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.” So agrees Matt Mungle.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)

(4.5 out of 5)

Review copyright 2010 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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