Alice in Wonderland
Oh my whiskers, there a lot of
versions of ALICE IN WONDERLAND available. In order to compare this ALICE with
others, I would have to watch the other ones, and that's not happening. One
alternative version I can attest to & rate is the original Disney cartoon.
That version rates the highest score of 5 Big Ones (Stars). So based on that, I
compared this ALICE.
Let's look at the somewhat negative areas first.
I have nothing at all against Miranda Richardson, but she is sorely miscast as the Red Queen. I picture the Queen as plump, almost beefy with a basso profundo, bellowing voice; not the incessant srceeeeeching of Richardson's screaming delivery. It's not pleasant, but not too bad. 3 stars. The perfect actor to play the role would be somone like...well, like the brilliant British character actress Elizabeth Sprigg. Oh darn...she's already cast as The Duchess--and what an absolutely perfect Duchess she is. 5 stars for the Duchess--and 5 stars for the entire cooking scene with the wacko cook throwing things & the fabulous animated crying baby! The poor little thing…
[Actress Elizabeth Spriggs 1929-2009]
The scene with the White Knight falls completely flat & lasts too long. This occurs at a time when the film needs to build pace, rather than sloooow it done. Oh, boo...can't even give this scene 3 stars. Have to give it 2.
Finally, I have to agree with other reviewers who thought the actress playing Alice was a pretty much one dimensional--not exactly wooden--rendition. It may have been the actor's fault, or a case of poor direction (although other scenes don't point that way.) Again, not that bad. 3 stars.
Now to the plus side:
First of all, I have to give a big bravo to the Jim Henson Creative Company that renders puppet, actors & animation into a seamless & wondrous whole. BIG FIVE STARS!
Martin Short steals the show as the Mad Hatter (the "Hatter" usually does.) Martin is perfection incarnate in this role & brings down the house with his song & dance routine, "Aunty Has A Wooden Leg!" Five Big Ones.
Whoopie Goldbergs' Cheshire Cat is great--& another testament to the seamless special effects. Her voice is soooooooo mellow it sounds like she may have had a few hits from the Caterpillar's hooka, but then aren't all cats a little like that? 4 Stars.
I thought Gene Wilder was very affective as the sad-sack singing Mock Turtle. The staging of his scene was fantastic too, borrowing with grace techniques from early European theatre. It's the Turtle who teaches Alice how to loose her stage fright and learn to smile & sing. Wilder is adorable in his turtle costume 5 Stars.
The conclusion ties up some very loose ends. At the beginning Alice is resisting being forced to perform in front of friends & relations. It's possible that this idea was the cause of Alice's mostly monotone characterization, so she could drop it at the end & reveal how she had benefited from her Trip. The assembled group, as in the Wizard of Oz, included the characters in Wonderland (now dressed in their Edwardian best.) Alice sings "Do you dance, do you want to dance?" Everybody applauds & starts singing & grooving’ to the rhythm with her.
I liked it.