Review: Alice in Wonderland Mostly Works

The Jefferson Airplane version of Alice in Wonderland ("White Rabbit") has always been my favorite, and it's the one I turn to again and again when pondering the iconic Alice. Hum along with me now, won't you?

And if you go chasing rabbits

and you know you're going to fall...

Alice in Wonderland is, strangely, about the movie you'd expect based on the talent involved. It's a Tim Burton film, through and through. Johnny Depp acts Mad (as the Mad Hatter) and Anne Hathaway's translucent skin has finally paid off in bringing the White Queen to life. Helena Bonham Carter screeches "Off with their heads!" early and often as the treacherous Red Queen. So, yeah, Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton, that's the deal. That's about all you need, right? Turn off the lights on your way out, thanks.

Go ask Alice, when she's 10 feet tall...

I see you're not to be deterred. Actually, while I've got your attention, I should praise Mia Wasikowska's Alice performance. She makes the film, in a tricky role, one that could have easily turned into a caricature. The film adaptation is a combination of the 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from Lewis Carroll and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. Elements and themes are taken from each story to form a fairly linear plot that tonally resembles The Chronicles of Narnia. Previous film versions of the Alice tale seemed less cohesive, but that could just be a hazy recollection.

Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call.

As for the 3-D, the film really could have done without it. It's the traditional 3-D that gives some depth near the back of the frame, but only comes out at you once or twice during the 108-minute running time. The trend in 3-D seems to be "Charge them two more dollars and make them wear glasses -- they'll eat it up!" It's a very "wag the dog" style of commerce that's being foisted upon us. The first 10 minutes of the film don't even require the glasses, unless I've suddenly and inexplicably started seeing in 3-D. That would be an upset, and one which I'd charge you an extra two dollars to even read about.

Remember what the dormouse said:

"Feed your head, feed your head."

Still, there's much to be charmed by in this newest iteration of Alice in Wonderland. Though the "literary nonsense" motif has never been my cup of tea, there's just enough logic presented here to allow for a measure of escapist entertainment. The leads are all solid, the scenery lush, and the iconic Alice world is brought convincingly to life. Unlike Alice, if you fall down this particular rabbit hole, you probably meant to, intent making all the difference in your journey. Enjoy the jabberwocky, the warm pig ottomans, the cake that makes you larger, and the liquid that makes you smaller. Or don't. Either way, the title has been around nearly 150 years: plenty of time to render a verdict, so you won't need to go ask Alice whether it's worth seeing or not.

Grade: B