Alice in Wonderland 3D – a movie review

Alice in Wonderland movie review

I have to start straight out and say this eagerly awaited adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is not a typical Disney production.  This is Alice all grown up.  Now aged nineteen, Alice is fleeing from a marriage proposal when she follows the mythical white rabbit and tumbles down a hole. Before you can fall into familiar Lewis Carroll territory however, the violent nature of the fall, with objects whizzing frighteningly near her (in 3D) warns that this Alice in Wonderland, though a beautifully crafted and fantastically imaginative cinematic work, is not aimed at young children.

Tim Burton, master director and visionary of movies such as Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas makes children’s movies that aren’t really for children. Borrowing loosely from Lewis Carroll’s classic, Burton’s Alice has to save the day by killing the Jabberwocky, the dragon that helps the evil Red Queen rule Wonderland.

The Red Queen is played by Helena Bonham-Carter, Burton’s wife and with her prominent bulbous head and acid, bored tone calling ‘Off with his head” at every turn she is brilliant. The Mad Hatter is Burton’s favourite actor Johnny Depp and although he kept reminding me of a caricature of previous camp and kooky roles he has played, from Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, he does lend the Hatter a very human side, portraying him as a shattered, post traumatic stress syndrome version of himself; all frizzed out hair and glazed green eyes after the Red Queen’s destruction of Wonderland.

The recurring theme of madness, which dodges both Alice (her ‘dream’ makes her think she is going mad) and the Hatter, adds further darkness and depth to Burton’s version. I think children would be disturbed by Alice’s growing dismay that this is not in fact a dream that she can pinch herself out of.

For all these concerns the movie’s dreamy fantastical landscape and moments of sheer brilliance make it a must-see to share with your older children. When Alice says ‘Curioser and curioser’ this classic saying takes on a new meaning and greater depth when seen as a calm response to our world today which can often seem crazy and out of control. Alice is also portrayed as a strong willed young woman who is not a super hero but rather someone who has to learn to overcome her fears.  At one stage the Hatter tells her; “You’ve lost your much-ness Alice, you used to be much more much”, striking a note about the need to be ourselves and realize our potential, which Alice learns by the time she faces up to the Jabberwocky.

Age restriction

10M which means 10 with mature content – so use your discretion. For sensitive children, I would wait for 12. I do have a problem with the way movies and media in general assume that because children are becoming young adults sooner than ever – they can deal with the psychological impact of darker issues and fears.  While they may seem to enjoy it and insist that they are not scared, I don’t believe they always have the emotional maturity to process what they are seeing.

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Author

Corinne Lamoral

Corinne Lamoral

Corinne Lamoral, a freelance writer and editor living with her husband and three children on a beautiful koppie in Johannesburg. Her ingenious idea of the day is Eau de New Book. She would wear it everyday.

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5 Responses

  1. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I totally agree – Burton’s movies are not really meant for children and should not be marketed as such!
    Am looking forward to watching it for myself, though! 🙂

  2. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee then Alice in Wonderland is a Tim Burton film designed by Disney fatcats in a boardroom. They spent so much time worrying about selling it as a product that they completely forgot about putting together a half-decent story. This Alice has no character arc; she is exactly the same by the end of the film, and therefore her journey is utterly pointless. The narrative thrust is so weak that they have to resort to a hollow battle scene in order to keep everyone awake.

  3. Thanks for a great review which answers the niggling feeling I had that it isn’t suitable for small kids. Pity that so many little kids are going to be taken to it by parents who don’t really know what to expect – once images are in their heads, you can’t get them out!

  4. A beautifully written review. It inspires thinking-adults to go see the film while giving us an excellent guideline re. our children.

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