Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Sep 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

After The Fall

film_aliceBurton follows Carroll down the rabbit hole in a funny, engaging 'Alice in Wonderland'
The better you know the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, the more you'll appreciate Tim Burton's winsome and nutty remix, Alice In Wonderland. Instead of rehashing of the familiar children's story, Burton and scriptwriter Linda Woolverton borrow elements from both classic Carroll books, "Alice In Wonderland," and "Through The Looking Glass," then dare to imagine an entirely new story populated by Carroll's enduring fantasy characters.

Burton and collaborator Woolverton (she wrote the marvelous script for Disney's Beauty And the Beast) understand what makes the books so much fun—deadpan, Seinfeld-like conversations about the minutiae of life, the usefulness (or not) of language, silly plays on words, and the stubborn pragmatism of resourceful little Alice in a world gone cheerfully mad. Staying true to this antic, anarchic spirit, they fashion a funny, girl-empowering saga that is often Carroll's equal in drollery.

In this story, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a slightly rebellious Victorian-era 19-year-old. Shanghaied to a surprise engagement party for her arranged betrothal to a pompous rich boy, Alice scoots off into the hedgerows in pursuit of a rabbit in a waistcoat and tumbles down the rabbit hole (a virtuoso sequence in which she caroms off the most amazing and amusing clutter). When she finally lands in the familiar locked room with one tiny door to the outside world and a drink and a cake to alter her size, unseen observers remark, "You think she'd remember all this from before!"

Alice has visited Wonderland (here called the Underland) as a child, but she doesn't remember much and thought it was only a dream. Now, as she encounters the personae of the Underland— the "Tweedles" (Dum and Dee), the White Rabbit—she still thinks she's dreaming while they debate whether or not she's the right Alice. By the time she's ushered to the eternally in-progress Tea Party, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) rolls out a scroll (decorated with the artwork of famous Carroll illustrator John Tenniel) and explains that she's the subject of a prophecy. On  the Frabjous Day, Alice is destined to slay the monster Jabberwocky and free Underland from the tyranny of the Red Queen.

In the first Alice book, royalty and their minions were based on playing cards like the Queen of Hearts. The second book was patterned after a chess game, with red and white queens, kings and knights. The film's imperious Red Queen (a delicious comic performance by Helena Bonham Carter) is more Queen of Hearts. Red heart motifs dominate her court, scrollwork, even her hair-do; her soldiers are stylized, armor-plated red cards. Shouting "Off with their heads!," she maintains her power through a ferocious black knight enforcer called Stayne (Crispin Glover).

Her sister, the White Queen (an uneasily platinum-blonde Anne Hathaway), beloved by the people, is confined to her checkerboard estate with her loyal court and chess-piece soldiers. In her quest to restore the White Queen to power, Alice's staunchest ally is the Hatter; sublimely silly and soulful as only Depp can be, he's part court jester, and part spirit guide. When Alice balks at her task, he says she was "much more…muchier" as a child. "You've lost your muchness," he tells her, in an exchange Carroll would love.

Depp and Carter get to act their parts with only a few CGI flourishes (like the Red Queen's hilariously bulbous head). Other characters are completely digital (but no less effective), like the Caterpillar (voiced with lubricous verve by Alan Rickman) and the cheeky Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). A jail cell scene between the Hatter and "Chess" the cat is a marvel of magical fx, comic timing, and wistful emotion.

Some visuals do suggest Tenniel by way of Sleepy Hollow, but Burton mostly saves his Gothic-noir sensibility for depicting the Red Queen's slash-film_alice_in_wonderlandand-burn policies. And even a somewhat gruesome moment when tiny Alice clambers over severed heads in the Red Queen's moat to sneak into her palace has a weirdly poetic quality. ("Lost my muchness, have I?" she cracks.) Alice's quest toward selfhood ("I make the path!"), and her knack for turning fearsome enemies into allies along the way, combine with the film's  ravishing look and  clever script for a buoyant heroine's journey well worth taking.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND ★★★★

With Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, and Mia W. Written by Linda Woolverton. From the novels by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Tim Burton. A Walt Disney release. Rated PG. 108 minutes.
Watch movie trailer >>>

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.