Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Rated: PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.
Length: 108 minutes
Grade: BC+CB=B
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $1.080 BILLION (334 U.S., 688 Intl., 58 DVD)

Written by: Linda Woolverton (Mulan, The Lion King), based on the book by Lewis Carroll
Directed by: Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks!, Ed Wood, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Beetle Juice, and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, and Alan Rickman.

It’s been thirteen years since Alice first visited Underland, mistakenly called Wonderland by the youth. Now, as she stalls for time from responding to a marriage proposal, she returns and must try to thwart the plans of the evil red queen according to a prophetic scroll referencing her.

Entertainment Value: B
It’s visually stunning and basically fascinating, despite a hackneyed plot. Tim Burton is all you really need to know. I spent most of the time wanting it to be better than it actually was.

Superficial Content: C+
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence C+, Language A
As in the tradition, potions for size-changing are imbibed and there’s a general unrealness to the whole thing. Violence is pretty shocking at times, including an eyeball getting plucked out with a sword and various scary scenes and fighting. The well-known “off with their heads” is yelled repeatedly by the creepy-scary Red Queen. I think the PG is misleading. PG-10 is probably right.

Significant Content: C
As with the other story, the story itself isn’t necessarily the point. This is more of an adventure in imagination than a coherent plot, and that’s fine. As for themes, the ability to wonder whether you are insane (mad) is a good indicator that you are not. Decisions should be made for your own reasons, and not for those of anyone else. Sometimes fulfilling your duty is the way to become who you are, but first you must know who you are. Dreaming is at least as important as being practical.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Burton is a master of visual amazement, and this certainly shows here. One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that it was less psychedelic and creepy than I anticipated, especially after Willy Wonka. If only the plot had been a bit more discernible, but that’s a trademark of Carroll’s to begin with. It’s meant to be more fun than thoughtful, and as this sort of art, it works fine.

Discussion Questions:
~What’s crazier: Alices “real” life above or her adventures beneath? In what way is the clarity about who is bad and good a virtue of Underland?
~Do you think our current culture is suffering from too much emphasis on being practical or too much emphasis on being a dreamer? Which tendency do you have to beware in yourself?
~Are there ever times to make decisions by tradition, convention, or according to authority? How can you tell whether a particular choice is one of those times or whether to do what you think best?
~Do you believe that dreams take us to places that are real? Have you ever had a recurring dream? Does that make it harder to believe something is just a dream? What do you think is the meaning of our dreams?
~Is it true that being worried about being crazy is one of the best indicators that you aren’t? How is self-doubt a virtue and its lack a serious danger? Do you think people who worry about being normal are doing something valuable or not? How might these questions play out for Tim Burton?

Overall Grade: B
I’m a bit amazed this made a billion dollars, but I am beginning to suspect that the next wave of films to do so will be primarily visual events in 3-D rather that excellent plots with fantastic acting.

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