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Review: Alice in Wonderland

By Jacqueline Smith

Rating: * * * *

Verdict: Still curious, centuries on.

It's not just because of fancy 3D computer graphics that Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland is the closest to what Lewis Carroll saw when he wrote the book. While no children's classic could be better suited to a storm of pop-out imagery - a puff of the Cheshire Cat's smoke in your face, dodge that hedgehog croquet ball - the effects enhance, rather than make, the film.

The collection of characters, who mimic all the odd-bods of society, make the film worth watching, no matter how few minutes they spend in front of the screen.

A chalked-up Depp gives that famous creepy-yet-endearing-crazy-man performance another spin as the Mad Hatter. Bonham Carter generates the most laughs as a bulbous-headed Red Queen along with Lucas (Little Britain) who plays both Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Even the monkey slaves who totter as they pose as candlesticks are charming.

Hathaway paints a rather pathetic version of the goodie as the White Queen, but it seems that was deliberate, in a mocking, Burton-esque way.

And as for Alice; demure, porcelain Alice. Despite six fancy costume changes, Wasikowska remains earnest, colourless even, but only compared to the eccentric bodies around her.

The Alice in this remake is not just a curious child who is wowed by crazy creatures. She is 19 years old. After being proposed to by a gummy-grinned and portly Lord, she runs away chasing a white rabbit and - as the Carroll tale goes - falls down a hydroslide of a hole. There are all the doors, the drink to shrink, the cake to grow, the Cheshire grin, the flamingo as a croquet mallet and the Mat Hatter's tea party - but this time it's all flying at you in 3D.

This fanciful story is rubbed with messages about letting ourselves escape to our personal Wonderland from time to time for a little self-discovery - pointed as much towards adults as children. And, as Carroll would have agreed, it celebrates madness - the best people in life are going around the bend.

Though smattered with awkward moments and other quirky remnants of Burton films, Alice is a "lite" version of his earlier projects, and the storyline may disappoint his fans. But it is a children's film after all, and it will charm the littlies in the audience.

One hundred and forty-five years on, Alice in Wonderland is still ludicrous, clever and fun. But this version reminds us that a remake will never quite surpass a treasured original.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Matt Lucas, Anne Hathaway

Director: Tim Burton

Rating: PG

Running time: 108 mins

- NZ Herald

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