All the best people are mad, including director Tim Burton.
With Alice in Wonderland, Burton asserts himself as the absolute master of the cinematic world of fairytale, filled with weird but heart-warming characters. Since Edward Scissorhands in 1990, the director has never failed to show us that even behind the creepiest-looking creature, there is a bruised but good soul. And Alice in Wonderland follows in that tradition, with a Mad Hatter awaiting justice and the return of the good old times, a Red Queen with an enormous head who just wants to be loved, and Alice who is expected to solve all their dilemmas.
The movie stars newcomer Mia Wasikowska as odd-ball 19 year-old Alice who sees rabbits in suits in the bushes, and wonders what it would be like if men wore dresses and women wore pants. Wasikowska is perfect for the role of this youth in revolt. She gives Alice an intellectual touch, where she is not just a child stuck in a dream, but a young woman who refuses to conform to the idea of what a lady should be . We meet Alice en route to her arranged engagement to a leprechaun-looking mama’s boy, who seems more like a grown baby than a man. While she is the object of observation, Alice strolls away from the party and falls in the rabbit hole. The story follows her return to Wonderland, a place which has coloured her dreams ever since she was a child.
Wonderland is full of other odd-balls, including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, wonderful as always), the Red Queen (scene-stealer Helena Bonham Carter), a blue caterpillar (voiced by the great Alan Rickman) and the Knave of Hearts (creepy Crispin Glover previously seen as that creepy bad guy who cuts Drew Barrymore’s hair and smells it in Charlie’s Angels). Needless to say, we have Team Burton at work here. Depp and Bonham Carter are the usual scene-stealers and are given the best lines in the film ( Hatter: “Alice, you were much more…muchier. You have lost your muchness”). Both are excellent in their fairytale characters’ revival to the screen. Anne Hathaway also makes a nice showing as the White Queen, sent to live in exile by her evil large-headed sister.
Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a visual wonder that offers all the elements of a (un)believable fairytale: great effects, excellent casting, and witty dialogue. Burton has most definitely not lost his muchness.