Friday Evening criteria include a) play or watchability, and b) fun for all ages!
Alice in Wonderland is a story that most people will remember – little girl falls asleep, falls down a rabbit hole, wakes up in Wonderland, has adventures, gets on the bad side of the Queen of Hearts, and then wakes up in the real world.
This movie takes that story and, quite frankly, makes it even crazier. Spoilers ahead!
Alice is now 19, and facing, essentially, an arranged marriage. Obviously, this doesn’t sit too well with her, and when the guy in question proposes, she runs off, following a rabbit in a waistcoat. She falls down the rabbit hole, ending up in Wonderland, which she thought was just a dream from her childhood. After shrinking and growing, and shrinking again due to the odd properties of Wonderland brewing and cooking experiments, she meets up with the White Rabbit, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Dodo, and the Flowers. (Remember them from the 1951 film?)
They argue over her identity as Alice, (she’s insisting that she is,) and finally take her to Absolem the Caterpillar, to consult his Oraculum (the Wonderland equivalent of a book of prophecies,) to see if she’s the one to slay the Jabberwocky. (Which turns out to be a huge dragon.) She’s not thrilled about that, as they didn’t mention that in the job description, and she’s not particularly interested in slaying anything. Absolem tells them that she’s not Alice yet, and disappears in his little cloud of smoke. The group is horribly disappointed, and is arguing over what they’re going to do, (since the Frabjous Day isn’t too far off,) when the Knave of Hearts and his group of card soldiers, along with the Bandersnatch (which looks like a big, furry pit bull,) attack and capture the Dodo and the White Rabbit, along with the Oraculum. The Dormouse makes off with one of the Bandersnatch’s eyes, but not before it gives Alice a rake with its claws, giving her some nasty scratches on her arm. The Tweedles run off with Alice, where they’re captured by the Jubjub bird, and taken to the Red Queen’s palace, leaving Alice alone. The Red Queen is alerted to Alice’s presence in Wonderland by the Knave, who then releases Bayard the Bloodhound to find her.
Alice wanders for a bit, meeting the Cheshire Cat. He takes her to the Hatter and the Hare, who are both very mad and still having tea. The Hatter shrinks Alice further to hide her from the Knave. Bayard is on the Hatter’s side, however, and does not turn them in. After they leave, the Hatter volunteers to take Alice to the White Queen. Along the way, he tells her the story of what happened to put the Red Queen in power. They are followed by card soldiers, and the Hatter turns himself in to save Alice. She is then found by Bayard, who is no longer working for the Knave. He takes her (per her request) to the Red Queen’s castle, where she eats some of the magic cake apparently common in Wonderland, and grows to an absolutely ridiculous size, easily fitting into the Red Queen’s group. And of course, nobody recognizes her as Alice. Convenient.
After a bit, Alice finds the Hatter, who has managed not to be executed, simply by offering to make the Red Queen hats to fit her. She chats with him for a bit, then wanders back off to go find the Vorpal sword (which looks pretty awesome, and is the only thing that can kill the Jabberwocky) which is locked away inside the Bandersnatch’s hut/cage thing. The Knave tries to flirt with Alice, but she’s not having any of that. One of the Queen’s court sees and tells the Queen, but the Knave is able to turn the tables, convincing the Queen that it was Alice’s fault. The Queen orders her beheaded. Alice, in the meantime, gets the sword, befriends the Bandersnatch (by returning its eye,) and the creature cleans Alice’s wound with its tongue. Eww. The Knave finds her, and attempts to arrest her. The Bandersnatch decides that it likes Alice better than its current living conditions, and Alice escapes on its back.
Alice delivers the sword to the White Queen, who then shrinks her back to her proper size. The Cheshire Cat saves the Hatter from execution, and the Hatter tries to incite a rebellion against the Red Queen. The rebellion is quickly dispelled by the Jubjub bird, but the survivors flee to the White Queen’s castle, and both armies prepare for battle. Alice gets a pep talk from Absolem concerning her role as the White Queen’s champion, and then turns into a pupa.
When the Frabjous Day arrives, both armies gather on a battlefield that looks suspiciously like a chessboard, and send out their chosen champions (armor-clad Alice and the Jabberwocky) to decide the fate of Wonderland in an epic battle. Alice fights the Jabberwocky, the two armies start battling each other, with the Red Queen’s side not doing terribly well. Alice beheads the Jabberwocky, ending the battle. The White Queen then banishes the Red Queen and the Knave to the Outlands; the Knave tries to kill the Red Queen (but the Hatter stops him.) The Hatter then does what must be the Wonderland equivalent of disco, and the White Queen gives Alice some of the Jabberwocky’s blood, which will take her home. The Hatter suggests that she stay in Wonderland, but she decides to go home, promising to return.
Alice returns home, where she says no to being married and says she’s going to live her life on her own terms. Lord Ascot is impressed, and takes her in as his apprentice with the idea of establishing trade routes to China.
As the story ends, Alice is going off on a trading ship. A light-blue butterfly lands on her shoulder, which Alice recognizes as Absolem and greets him before he flutters away.
Overall, this is a pretty good movie. I know that some people didn’t like it, but I actually really enjoyed it. Especially considering that it was directed by Tim Burton – it’s not that I have anything against him, his movies just end up being creepy and dark a lot of the time.
Johnny Depp as the Hatter was a great decision. He’s a hoot. The world is definitely in a worse state than we last saw it. On another note, I still prefer the pink Cheshire, but the grey/blue one is pretty cool too.
I don’t remember any profanity, and other that a couple of possibly gag or cringe-worthy moments, specifically when Alice is jumping across the moat on the heads of people the Queen’s executed, when she kills the Jabberwocky, and perhaps when the Dormouse pokes out the Bandersnatch’s eye, (which sounds worse than it is,) there’s not horribly graphic violence.
I’d recommend Alice in Wonderland for ages 10 and up, probably. Maybe a bit younger. Depends on the kids watching. The movie is rated PG for “fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations,” according to the MPAA, and for… a smoking caterpillar.
Have fun this evening!