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Alice in Wonderland (3D)


Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Tim Pigott-Smith. Voices: Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee, Barbara Windsor, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gough, Jim Carter

Director: Tim Burton

Or, more properly, Return to Wonderland, in a sequel almost as dark as was Return to Oz some years ago. In Burton's new vision of Lewis Carroll's story, it's 13 years since six-year-old Alice had the original adventures, and she's been having the same 'dream' ever since.

Reluctantly attending a swish garden party - when a dowager asks her 'Do you know what I dread most?', Alice cheekily replies 'The decline of the aristocracy?' - she finds she's about to be engaged to an upper-class twit (Ken Dodd lookalike Leo Bill).

Fleeing the scene, Alice follows the White Rabbit again and falls down the inevitable hole in the stump of a tree, miles down into Underland (seems the child Alice got it wrong last time). Here things proceed for a while according to Carroll's original - 'Hasn't she learnt anything?' asks the Rabbit, watching Alice shrink to tiny size while leaving the key to a little door on a glass table she can no longer reach. After a bright start, however, the story descends into sometimes dullish dungeons-and-dragons dramedy. It seems the rabid rule of the Queen of Hearts (Bonham Carter doing her best in a role more suited to Imelda Staunton, who does provide one of the voices) has laid waste to the land, while the White Queen (a fey Hathaway) has been exiled.

Even the Mad Hatter's tea party is now a wreck, although, as he's portrayed by Burton stalwart Depp, the character has a major role to play in the new story and, in an Oz-like finale, we almost expect Alice to tell him she'll miss him most of all.

Even given the stop-start pace, though, there are good bits: the Caterpillar and Cheshire Cat are splendidly realised, and delightfully given the voices of Rickman and Fry respectively. The taming by Alice of the 'frumious' bandersnatch (like a giant spotted hog) is a nice touch, and the final battle between an armoured Alice and the dreaded Jabberwock is thrillingly staged. The vorpal blade does indeed go snicker-snack. And the film looks amazing throughout.

After an uncertain start, Wasikowska grows in stature as Alice as the film progresses, but Depp, with varying English and Scottish accents, is more annoying than appealing as the Hatter.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Technicolor.
108 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Feb 2010