Truly great stories are those that stick with you long after you read the last page or the final credits roll. Lewis Carroll's tales of Alice are like that for me. I've read the book so many times I've memorized the chapter names. When I heard Tim Burton was making a sequel of sorts, I was excited, because the eccentric director is well-matched to this bizarre world. Burton brings his flair to Wonderland, but he presents a story that is faithful to the source material.
Though I wasn't fortunate enough to see this in IMAX 3D, my local theater's digital 3D presentation was gorgeous. Even the Friskies commercial (which had me laughing hysterically) was pretty, albeit a little oddly placed, in 3D. The film itself makes great use of the technology. So many times when I go to see a 3D film, there are elements that seem gimmicky and out of place. The 3D in Alice in Wonderland was an asset to the story, making Underland (as it's called in this film) the surreal movable feast we expect it to be. Vivid colors and lush environments complement the colorful characters Alice encounters along the way.
Speaking of characters, all of the old familiar characters are there (OK, not all of the old characters, but the major players anyway). I knew I was in for a treat when Alice first arrives in Underland and rocking-horse flies flew across the screen. The story is totally accessible to anyone who hasn't read the books (as was the case with two people in my group), but for those of us who have read the books, it's one "Wow!" after another. Not only do you get to see the major players, but even elements from "Jabberwocky" (like the Jabberwocky himself, the Jub-Jub Bird, and the frumious Bandersnatch). And the way Burton works the story from the poem itself into the film is great.
Casting for the film was very well done. Mia Wasikowska's Alice has the right balance of naivete and bravado, reacting just the way I'd imagine Carroll's Alice would. Crispin Glover's turn as the Knave of Hearts is creepy in all the right ways, and Burton mainstays Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp make the film. Voice acting by Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee/Tweedledum), and Alan Rickman (Absalom the Blue Caterpillar) is a delight. Of the supporting performances, Anne Hathaway's turn as the White Queen brought me the most joy. She captures the essence of the character so well, floating across the screen with pleasant pageantry.
There's so much to enjoy about this film. It's fun, scary, heartwarming--all the things you want a film like this to be. Danny Elfman's score is uncharacteristic of traditional Burton/Elfman scores, but that's a great thing. The annoying thing about Elfman sometimes is that every score sounds like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. That's so not the case here. One caveat--if you decide to take the kiddos to this one, keep in mind that even Lewis Carroll's story went to some dark and scary places, and Burton's does too. Our theater was packed with little ones, and several kids beside me were terrified by some of the creatures, most notably the Jabberwocky. (I have to admit, even I jumped once at the menacing giant.) The only complaint I have involves a short dance sequence, but it's more about the music that backs it, not so much the dance itself.
Go see this movie. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. It's everything a fan of the original book could hope for, but it's accessible to anyone who just wants a fun time at the movies. (Trust me, it's worth the price of admission for the 3D Friskies commercial. It's a scary glimpse into the future.)