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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #519 (Vol. 11, No. 10). This edition is for the week of March 1--7, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Alice In Wonderland"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

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Walt Disney Pictures     
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska
Directed by: Tim Burton
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hour 48 mins

England. While her father (Marton Csokas) talks business with some associates 6 year old Alice Kingsleigh (Mairi Ella Challen) wanders into the study. He interrupts his work to tuck her into bed. There she tells him about a strange dream she had, one where she fell down a rabbit hole. Her father tells her that she is in charge of her dreams and next time that happens she should pinch herself awake.

Thirteen years later, her father recently deceased, Alice (Wasikowska) finds herself about to be proposed to by a man she can hardly stand. When she tries to explain her still recurring dreams she is told that she is being foolish. In fact, she should not be speaking of them. “Rule number one for a woman,” she is told, “when in doubt, be silent.” Unable to face the stares of those at the engagement party, she scampers off, only to find herself at the base of another large rabbit hole. Ooops, down she goes. From this point on the story only gets curiouser and curiouser.

I’ve seen many a version of “Alice In Wonderland,” from the animated Disney film of the fifties to the X-rated musical version starring Kristine DeBell. And as someone that had read the Lewis Carroll stories as a youngster, I found they managed to tell the story in a pretty straightforward way. White Rabbit? Check. Mad Hatter? Got him. Red Queen yelling “Off with his head?” You betcha. But I know now what “Alice” has been missing on her journeys to the silver screen. Tim Burton. The visionary director of such films as “Beetlejuice” and “Batman” is the perfect person to put in charge of translating the magical world that Carroll created to the big screen. And he gets to do it in 3-D!

As told by Burton, “Alice in Wonderland” is a fanciful story that sadly does not know where to end. As her adventures take her deeper and deeper into the world beyond the rabbit hole, Alice learns that her father was right. Only she is the master of her dreams, even the ones that don’t end with a pinch. The cast is perfect, led once again by veterans of the Burton way. As the truly mad, Mad Hatter, Depp is surely a figment of his own imagination. His blazing orange hair and oversized green eyes must have been a fright to the big wigs at Disney, who famously objected to his fey Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. But Depp knew best then, and now. Looking like a deranged Carrot Top, his Mad Hatter is the driving force behind the film. Equally good is Carter as the Red Queen who, in spite of her intentions, can’t help yelling “Off with his head” at the slightest hint of injustice towards her, real or imagined. Wasikowska is properly sweet as Alice in a debut reminiscent of Robin Wright in “The Princess Bride.”

If there is anything wrong with the film it is the story. The film credits itself to the two most popular books by Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” However, the film also borrows heavily from “Jabberwocky,” and the combination of three books makes for a story that never seems to have a direction or ending. Of course, with Tim Burton in charge, the film is visually stunning. In fact, it could almost be said that 3-D was made for Tim Burton…and vice versa.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give “Alice and Wonderland”  

This week's movie review of "Alice In Wonderland" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.