DVD: Alice in Wonderland

Photo: amazon.ca

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. Directed by Tim Burton. 108 minutes. PG

When Lewis Carroll's Wonderland works are adapted, we hope to be thrown into a world that's a wild and extravagant as his stories made us imagine. We also hope to be thrown a surprising jolt every so often on the ride. Disney's newest rendition of Alice in Wonderland surpasses these hopes and sends expectations exploding.

Most of us know the gist of the story. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) chases a white rabbit into a rabbit hole, tumbling head-first miles down to Wonderland where she meets a slew of curious and curiouser characters, all the while trying to get back home. In this version, Alice's journey revolves around a feud between sisters (the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter)) and Alice is plunked right into the dramatic mess.

For those of us who've grown up with Disney's original 1951 take on the Carroll stories, there are certain characterizations that we may already be familiar with. The Mad Hatter has a lisp, the caterpillar words are always painted in colourful smoke and the White Rabbit is always frazzled. It's tough to come into Burton's film with these pre-conceptions, but it's even more astonishing when Burton's new characters completely blow them away and create memorable, believable personalities anew.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is not as scene-hogging and annoying as the trailers and DVD cover stage him to be. He's a sweet and likable aid to Alice. He could be a bit madder though, rather than let his bright eyeshadow and frizzy hair play the madness for him.

Carter as the Red Queen is terrifying, and she should be. Hathaway as the White Queen seems to be inspired by Glinda the Good Witch and is a little awkward, but in Burton's world, it works. However, it was Wasikowska who stole the spotlight.

Wasikowska makes Alice real. When her mind runs, she sends your mind running. When she believes, you believe. As the thread throughout the film, her commitment brings the story to life as she tugs the audience along on her trippy adventure through Underland.

Yes, Underland. It's Burton, what did you expect? It's much darker than Disney's original Wonderland, but not so much that it's frightening. Characters are literally blown out of proportion (Red Queen's bulbous noggin, the Tweedles' egg-like bodies), scenes are hazier, surrounded by fog and smoke, and evil is eviler. But it's all kid-friendly; there is no gore and no sexual innuendo. Can't say much for the drugs though, the film is littered with pot, hash and shrooms, but we already knew that.

Alice in Wonderland is an entertaining, nutty thrill ride that impresses with loops and curves when you're least expecting it. 'Rents and kiddies can both enjoy the whirlwind. A-

EXTRAS: Featurettes with the cast

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