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3/24/2010 1:48 PM 

Tim Burton is well known for striking his own path when taking on adaptations of prior works to turn into his own feature films. Batman, unlike the TV version, was dark and brooding and many people - unreasonably - demanded refunds when Sweeney Todd opened his mouth to sing.

Many of Burton's more recent works we also animated, Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas to name but two. However for 'Alice' Burton had the opportunity to mix live action with animation, giving the possibility for a 3D experience as well.

The shock, if you can call it that, with this adaptation of Carroll's work is that although it shares the same name as the book it actually works simultaneously an amalgamation and sequel to the 'Alice' series of stories and Lewis Carroll's other literary output.

So for this film we see Alice a good deal older than in her in print incarnation and put into a sticky social situation during a party in the grounds of a stately home. Once again she falls into Wonderland and revisits those scenarios that she frequented in her, now suppressed, dreams as a young girl.

For those familiar with the texts the themes of transformation of attitude and person are rife in this film. Without giving too much away many of Carroll's characters appear in this version of events and the animation, imagery, and characterisation (with the help of many talented actors in person and voice) was really entertaining.

In my opinion the only area where Burton and his team went too far was with the insertion of many action sequences which at times made me wonder if Alice had accidentally fallen down the wrong rabbit hole and ended up in Narnia or even Middle Earth. The gentle surrealism of Carroll's original works may have been too dry for modern audiences and when many millions of dollars are being spent on the latest 3D visual animation it is probably best to play safe and add a few battles and slayings.

Obviously the supporting cast was so good that I believe that the newcomer Mia Wasikowska who plays Alice has been given a slightly unfair review of her acting abilities. It seems to me that while the new character of Alice is much more reserved having doubted her sanity in her early teenage years that this is an excuse for giving a reasonable muted performance. Better that than trying to emulate the full range of human emotions badly and spoiling the whole movie. Depp steals the show as the mad hatter without ruining it for the other people involved.

On another note I was quite surprised that this was a PG certificate. I am probably getting soft in my dotage but I did wonder whether 8 or 9 year old children were quite ready to watch eyes being gouged out with needles. This is not Tom & Jerry violence, and animated though the film may be the realism is still enough to make a grown man cringe a bit.

**** (out of 5)



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