Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Mia Wasikowska as Alice

{Alice in Wonderland opened in Seattle Friday, 3/5, and is playing at The Neptune, The Meridian 16 and the IMAX}

I love pretty much everything Tim Burton does (outside of Planet of the Apes), but I admit: I was a little worried about this based on the previews. I went in expecting an over-the-top slap-sticky version of Alice, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Except for one dance scene that takes place at the end, as a whole I thought it was pretty great.

Taking place 13 years after she originally falls down the rabbit hole, a quirky doesn’t-quite-fit-into-Victorian-England-19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska, who was clearly born to play this part) stumbles into Wonderland, or Underland, as the residents call it, while fleeing from an arranged marriage to a floppy aristocrat.

The Wonderland creatures reveal a prophecy as soon as she arrives: Alice will slay the Jabberywocky (Christopher Lee!) and restore the crown to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, playing out Burton’s obsession with turning brunettes to platinum blondes), ending the evil Red Queen’s reign and saving everyone from losing their heads.

Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen

The problem? Alice isn’t sure she’s the right Alice. Fortunately she’s got the fiery-haired, crazy-eyed Mad Hatter (I don’t care what anyone else says, Johnny Depp plays every part like it’s his best, and this is no exception) to remind her of her former glory.

The scenery and characters in Wonderland are executed with perfection – sure, you can tell it’s CGI, but there’s so much stuff to look at, it’s hard to care. From the moment you see the White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the Dodo bird and the Blue Caterpillar (excellently voiced by Alan Rickman), you get lost in Alice’s surroundings.

From the bulbous-eyed frog servants to the very mad March Hare, the charmingly ambiguous Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry!), and the dimwitted Tweedledee & Tweedledum, to Crispin Glover hamming it up as the evil one-eyed Stayne and the brilliance with which Helena Bonham Carter screams “Who stole my tarts?” with her oversized Red Queen noggin – I really, really enjoyed it all.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

The only thing I will say about the 3D is this: it wasn’t necessary at all. It was more like an slight enhancement to something that’s already stunningly beautiful. This movie would play just as well without, and it makes me wish Disney would get off the gimmicky-3D bandwagon.

While you could argue that the story arc and “lessons” are so light that they take a backseat to the special F/X, I think that’s what I liked about it. It’s just a really fun movie with fantastic scenery and lots of recognizable voices.

Sometimes, that’s all you need.