When a movie is over-hyped, as is the case with Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland', some reviewers and moviegoers feel the need to over-scrutinize and micro-analyze every last detail. With its blockbuster cast and must-see factor, 'Alice' is completely and totally vulnerable to the cynic's shooting gallery. Things that would pass for a minor foible in a "regular" movie become major faults.

Due to this phenomenon, prior to viewing the film, I read some rather scathing reviews. The negative comments ranged in severity -- one even said it was an epic failure on all fronts -- but overall there was much disappointment in 'Alice'. It begs the question: What exactly are people expecting from this movie? We cannot forget that this is a Tim Burton-Disney collaboration, and they're unlikely bedfellows to say the least, so there are bound to be kinks along the way. But the bottom line is 'Alice' is a kid's story for adults, and sometimes that can be a difficult line to tread.

I'll put it out there: I think Burton and his amazing cast have succeeded in making a wonderful film, one that both children and their parents can enjoy. Save for a few regrettable components, 'Alice' is a fun, enjoyable fantasy, one that imparts a valuable message for young girls everywhere.

When a movie is over-hyped, as is the case with Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland', some reviewers and moviegoers feel the need to over-scrutinize and micro-analyze every last detail. With its blockbuster cast and must-see factor, 'Alice' is completely and totally vulnerable to the cynic's shooting gallery. Things that would pass for a minor foible in a "regular" movie become major faults.

Due to this phenomenon, prior to viewing the film, I read some rather scathing reviews. The negative comments ranged in severity -- one even said it was an epic failure on all fronts -- but overall there was much disappointment in 'Alice'. It begs the question: What exactly are people expecting from this movie? We cannot forget that this is a Tim Burton-Disney collaboration, and they're unlikely bedfellows to say the least, so there are bound to be kinks along the way. But the bottom line is 'Alice' is a kid's story for adults, and sometimes that can be a difficult line to tread.

I'll put it out there: I think Burton and his amazing cast have succeeded in making a wonderful film, one that both children and their parents can enjoy. Save for a few regrettable components, 'Alice' is a fun, enjoyable fantasy, one that imparts a valuable message for young girls everywhere.

When we first meet Alice (Mia Wasikowska), she's a 19-year-old aristocrat in London, England, about to be betrothed to a lord who suffers from post-nasal drip and a sensitive stomach. This is far from the Alice we'd expect, but somehow it really works. Burton makes 'Alice' his own by adapting it in this way, and Wasikowska is a fantastic choice for Alice. Her pouty (yet striking) face is spot-on. Alice is pulled in every direction by her controlling mother and her friends until she's forced to run off into the hedges, where she stumbles down the rabbit hole.



Once in Wonderland - in this movie called 'Underland' - we meet all the classic characters. They're all there, from the March Hare to the Caterpillar to Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. Most of them are animated (this is an obvious point...I mean, how could one train a caterpillar to act?), and surprisingly, it doesn't take away from their effectiveness or how much we like them. Many critics dissed the animated characters, but are again forgetting that this is a Disney film, and who can do animation better than Disney? The March Hare is like Roger Rabbit on crack, and funny throughout. The Tweedles, deadpan and dumb, are also a riot. Just so it's not super-predictable, we meet several new characters who are endearing and fun to watch.

Other than Alice herself, the crux of the film rests on the Mad Hatter (a beefed-up part for Burton fave Johnny Depp) and the Queen of Hearts (Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter). Side notes go to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover). Each of these actors is a treat in their own way, but bonus points go to Carter, who is literally a joy to watch, and who you can tell really digs this role. One reviewer commented that her incessant "Off with her head!" command got annoying fast, but I was not irritated once by her character. As for Depp, other than a slightly disparate accent from scene-to-scene, he's also a delight. The man could act in a paper bag and still be captivating.

As a whole, the movie is a visual combination of Disney and Burton - at once beautiful and fantastical (Disney) while dark and brooding (Burton). The two opposing forces clash at times, like during an unfortunate dance sequence featuring Depp, but those down moments are few and far between. There were outbursts of loud laughter from the audience throughout the film, and even Burton's supporting characters, who are normally weak and easily forgotten, are funny.

True to Disney form, 'Alice' sends a message to young girls everywhere at the end. But this time - whether it's Burton's influence or not is anyone's guess - it's actually a message applicable to today's world. I won't ruin it here, but let's just say it has nothing to do with a princess marrying her Prince Charming and riding off into the sunset.

To the critics who ripped this delightful film to shreds, I have this to say: Lighten up. Save the dissection for 3-hour epics and film studies. 'Alice' is a hilarious treat for young and old, as long as you're young at heart, too.

3 1/2 stars out of 4.

Check out the 'Alice in Wonderland' Unscripted
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