Review: Alice in Wonderland
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund
“Alice in Wonderland,” Tim Burton's 3-D addendum to Lewis Carroll's “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” starts off in Victorian London, introducing us to 6-year-old Alice (Mairi Ella Challen), who tells her doting father (Martin Csokas) of the dreams (or are they memories?) she's been having about talking caterpillars and waistcoat-wearing white rabbits. Jump ahead 13 years: daddy has died, and Alice (Mia Wasikowska), still fanciful but visibly worn down by harsh reality, is off to contend with her unsavory betrothed, Hamish (Leo Bill), at a nose-in-the-air garden party with frilly frocks and crumpets.
From top to tails, the production design of this early portion is quite beautiful, staged and inhabited in that Burtonian, rough-around-the-pretty-edges manner that's of this world, yet still north of reality. There's a storybook ring to the dialogue, characters are vivid and enjoyably histrionic, and the environment is caught in clever, cohesive detail by a man whose aesthetic is one of the most identifiable in modern cinema. Fine as the scenery is, it's surely not Alice's scene, and as Hamish prepares to pop the question before an audience of oglers, our heroine spots her furry, hoppity friend, chases after him, and tumbles down fiction's foremost rabbit hole.