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DVD Review: "Alice in Wonderland"

By It's My Life on May 18, 2010 5:04 PM | No TrackBacks

AliceInWonderfulBlurayCombo.jpgDeparting from both Lewis Carroll's book "Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland" and the 1951 Disney animated movie it inspired, director Tim Burton's new telling of the classic children's tale features an older Alice (she's 19) who, suffering from recurring bad dreams and running from society's expectations of marriage, follows a white rabbit down a hole and into a bizarro, nightmarish world called Underland. She's been here before, many years ago, but she doesn't remember it. Many of the inhabitants of this strange land, including the White Rabbit, the Doormouse, and the talking flowers, aren't even sure she's the same Alice, though she seems to look the part. But the people and animals need her help all the same, as Underland has come under the thumb of the nasty Red Queen, and things will only get better if somebody can manage to slay the terrible Jabberwocky and return power to the White Queen. Will Alice be the hero they need?

This is a "girl power" version of Alice, a teenager who needs to gain confidence and take charge of her destiny. We like that a lot and it's our favorite part of the film. She's not the Alice you remember; she's a new character in a new story. And that sounds about right, since the movie is made for modern-day audiences, especially girls and young women who might be struggling with their own issues with sense of self and inner strength.

In the movie, this is referred to as "muchness" -- Alice has lost it, and she's gotta find it. If you look at the flick from that point of view, it's an interesting journey that Alice takes, and you may find yourself thinking about your own "muchness" as a result. Check out behind-the-scenes that includes the film's star, Mia Wasikowska, talking about how she personally related to Alice's search to regain her "muchness."

Here are our favorite Alice quotes, which don't sound all that different from some of the things IML'ers post on the You Said It pages:
  • "You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
  • "Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
  • "I've been growing an awful lot lately."

"Alice in Wonderland" was a ginormous hit when it came out in theaters earlier this year, partly because it was released in 3D. Now the movie is being released on Disney DVD and Blu-ray, but only in 2D.  The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack we watched comes with some peeks behind the scenes and interviews about creating the movie and characters.

So what did we think of the movie as a whole?

We liked:

Tweedledum and Tweedledee. We love comedian Matt Lucas, and his version of the pudgy pudding-headed twins, helped along by some creative CGI, is fabulous. We wish they were in the movie a bit more.

Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway. Who doesn't like them both, in just about whatever they do? Depp's role isn't as entertaining as Jack Sparrow, but he's totally "mad as a hatter" here. Hathaway's job is to look sweet and sound crazy, and she does both very well.

The Song. "Alice," sung by Avril Lavigne, plays over the movie's end credits. It's sweet and trippy, and worthy of singing at the top of your lungs.

We didn't like:

The Red Queen. Helena Bonham Carter is a great actress, but the big-headed (and we mean that literally) Red Queen is just over-the-top disturbing. Yuck!

The Action-Movie climax. It kinda feels like the writer and director ran out of good ideas towards the end of this story, and just decided to serve up something that everybody's come to expect from a big-budget adventure movie: an epic battle and monster-slaying sequence. This one is fun to look at, but not the sort of weird, zany and "wonder"-ous conclusion that we feel the Alice story deserves.

The Title. We know what you're thinking: "IML has finally gone nuts. How can they take issue with the movie's TITLE?" Okay, we'll explain. You see, to us, and to a lot of other people in the world, "Alice in Wonderland" is the title of a very specific story. It's been made into countless plays, movies and TV shows in dozens of countries, but the story is always basically the same, and it's based on Lewis Carroll's original Alice book. This new version, although it contains all the same basic characters (and a few new ones) tells a very different story, and has a very different feel. And although Tim Burton has gone on record as saying he doesn't see his movie as a sequel or as a re-imagining, it's actually a little bit of both. It's a sequel because Alice is older and she's been to Wonderland before, and it's a re-imagining because it creates a totally new version of Wonderland, re-structures the story, and adds a whole bunch of stuff that was never in tale before. Think of it this way: What if the folks who made the movie sequel "Return to Oz" had decided to title it "The Wizard of Oz" instead? People would have showed up expecting one story, and gotten a totally different one. That's how we feel about calling this movie Alice in Wonderland. It should've been called "Return to Wonderland," or maybe "Alice in Underland." In the end, this is a cool story and deserves its own cool title!

Alice & the Rabbit Hole.jpgThe tone of this film may be too serious and dark and gloomy for some IML'ers, but if you're a Tim Burton fan, or a fan of taking a classic tale and putting an interesting twist on it, then you will enjoy "Alice in Wonderland" for sure. And if you're questioning your own "muchness" -- your inner strength and sense of self -- this trip to Underland may actually feel close to home.

IML's grade: B

Alice in Wonderland is rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar (Huh? A smoking caterpillar? That's a real ratings thing?)

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