[Alice in Wonderland]

Before I could even begin writing about Alice in Wonderland, I had to dig through eleven pages of a friend’s Facebook links to find this open letter to Pixar. It’s a great piece in general, and you should all read it, but what stuck with me was the desire for a Pixar movie that gives us a character girls can dress up as for Halloween. A character that is not a princess.

It’s a different studio, and Alice is obviously a privileged character, but she is not a princess. She is a champion. It is seriously awesome. Dear Hollywood: More, please!

Going in, I was glad to know it was not a Tim Burton film in the way I’d expect. I’ve since learned that was deliberate. It is visually Burtonesque, but the story and pacing is definitely your straight ahead fantasy adventure. The opening title (including the score) felt extremely Harry Potter. There is definite cheese, particularly at the end — very “Oh, Hatter, I think I’ll miss you most of all!”

Our Alice is now 19, returning to Wonderland, and is played by the lovely Mia Wasikowska, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Gwyneth Paltrow, except she’s not irritating. Johnny Depp is, of course, brilliant as the Hatter, and Helena Bonham-Carter does great work, even through CGI, as the Red Queen. The voice casting is spot-on, particularly Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat & Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar. The oddest performance is from Anne Hathaway, who reminded me of Michael Keaton in Much Ado About Nothing; you know they’re doing what the director has asked of them, but why he’s asked it is a mystery.

Visually, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. 3D was not part of the original plan, but works strikingly well, even though it’s apparently fated to always give me a headache. I do wish, clichéd though it may have been, that the 3D had only been used in Underland. In the above world scenes, it felt forced, but in Underland it lent a fantastic texture, particularly in the numerous scenes shot at ground level, and to anything involving mist, or smoke, or the Cheshire Cat.

It’s great fun overall, though, once Burtonspectations have been adjusted, and worth seeing in the theater.

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