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ALICE IN WONDERLAND

SYNOPSIS:
For 19-year-old Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska), life is about take a turn for the unexpected. When Hamish, the worthy but dull son of Lord and Lady Ascot, proposes marriage, Alice flees, heading off after a waistcoated rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) and falls down the rabbit hole, landing in a round hall with many doors. After a spot of bother involving a bottle labelled "Drink Me", whose contents shrink her, and a cake with the words "Eat Me" iced on top which makes her grow, Alice finds herself in the fantastical world of Underland. There, she meets a swashbuckling Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) the aptly named Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), an ever-grinning Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), the hookah-smoking caterpillar, Absalom (voiced by Alan Rickman), a creepy White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and her spiteful older sister, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) - petulant ruler of Underland whose reign of terror Alice is destined to try and end.

Review by Louise Keller:
Tim Burton's magical and inventive visualisation of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland both reinforces and delights us with its upside down world, intriguing perspectives and age-old conflict of good versus evil. A scurrying rabbit wearing a waistcoat, a broadly grinning (and often disappearing) Cheshire cat, a perpetually puffing blue caterpillar, the eccentric Mad Hatter and the evil Red Queen with the oversized head are some of the memorable characters we meet with Alice, when her recurring dream becomes a reality after tumbling down the rabbit hole into an alternate world. Burton's sensibilities are happily compatible with the bizarre world in which Alice finds herself and he has created a wondrous film in which the ordinary and extraordinary are wildly stirred, delivering a bewitching fantasy for young and old.

I laughed when Helena Bonham Carter's grotesquely bulbous-headed Red Queen rests her feet on the tummy of a squealing piglet ('I love a warm pig belly for my aching feet') and at the long-necked pink ostrich croquet stick who offers a sincere 'So sorry' to the cute baby hedgehog, who is the ball. Through the kaleidoscope of brilliant colour, there are plenty such moments as Alice sets out on her quest to find six impossible things before breakfast. One of the constant visual joys is the ever-changing perspective as Alice shrinks and stretches physically and mentally as she goes through self-doubt in pursuit of The Real Alice. The mastery of Burton is the way he marries all the elements - from the story at the heart to the subtle touches and embellishments which allow the talking animals, polka-dot mushrooms, flying purple-blooded Jabberwocky, an army of supple red playing cards, the selfless White Queen and the decision Alice must make about her future in the real world.

In the role of a lifetime, Australian Mia Wasikowska is superb as Alice with whom we share her incredible adventures, fears and hopes. All the best people are bonkers, they say, and who else but Johnny Depp could satisfy as the red haired Mad Hatter ('The best way to travel is by hat')? Bonham Carter's presence is every bit as big as her oversized head and we love to loathe her. Anne Hathaway is a good choice as the pure White Queen and all the voice casting is perfectly pitched - from Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat to Alan Rickman's hypnotic sky-blue caterpillar whose matter of fact philosophy about life and the next world is an apt moment to leave the rabbit hole.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lewis Carroll must have had a wonderful assortment of friends judging by the characters in Alice in Wonderland, many or most of whom are apparently based on them. The Cheshire Cat (voice of Stephen Fry) with the ever-present grin is perhaps the easiest to imagine by the writer's feet, but what a dinner party - or tea party - he must have had with the others, especially the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). All very English, really ... meaning eccentric in this case.

Fusing Carroll's imagination with that of Tim Burton results in a wonderland which (not unlike Avatar's Pandora) is a strikingly different place to our own - yet the moral touchstones are the same. And like Pandora, Wonderland is so comprehensively imagined as to be almost tangible.

Flying rocking horses and giant mushrooms are the least of it, a crazed rabbit and a dormouse part of the package, while ferocious beasts at the beck and call of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) provide the dark side. Kids 8 - 12 and adults over 40 are the most likely to enjoy this fantasy world where Alice (Mia Wasikowska) discovers who she really is, encouraged by the wise old caterpillar, Absolom (voice of Alan Rickman). Wasikowska, the Aussie actress with quite a list of credits including Suburban Mayhem, Rogue, Amelia and the upcoming The Kids Are Alright, makes a charming, fresh and likeable Alice with a great combo of sweetness and strength.

Whimsy and adventure are built into the tale of this girl whose imagination powers her future; Lewis Carroll has a sly dig at pomp, circumstance and the aristocracy on the way through, lovingly presenting us with the bohemian side of life.

The art direction and the clever use of the new tools of cinema enable Burton to elongate, squash, enlarge and distend even his real life actors, so that Helena Bonham Carter's oversize head is out of proportion to her body, while Crispin Glover's (as Stayne, Knave of Hearts) is too small. The colours are dynamic, Danny Elfman's score is larger than life and Johnny Depp is magical.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (PG)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, Lindsay Duncan

VOICES: Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Barbara Windsor

PRODUCER: Tim Burton, Jennifer Todd, Joe Roth, Richard D. Zanuck

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

SCRIPT: Linda Woolverton (book by Lewis Carroll)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dariusz Wolski

EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon

MUSIC: Danny Elfman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Stromberg

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 4, 2010







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