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CW's Review of Alice in Wonderland

rated it: posted: Mar 31, 2012
Reviews: 51 | Reviewing Ninja
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I suppose when it comes to surreal movies, animation is the best medium to realize them in. Sure, special effects these days can do just about anything, but there wasn’t a lot they could do back in the 1950s. Also, Disney had already experimented with animation in films such as The Three Caballeros, Fantasia, and even Dumbo. Pink Elephants on Parade was crazy, and it was certainly just the beginning.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was probably the most appropriate book to use for Disney’s continuing experiments in the hand-drawn medium. The sheer amount of nonsense and imagination present in Wonderland would’ve made it very difficult to try to film with live actors (although many studios did try, with varying success).

It took me a while to figure out what I really feel about this movie. As a study in nonsense, it’s quite good. One of my favourite lines from the original text had to do with the ease of being offered more than nothing and the difficulty of being offered less than nothing, and it is included in the film. In fact, the film takes many scenes from the book (as well as Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel) and animated them almost verbatim. Indeed, Alice did have quite a few little adventures during her trip through Wonderland.

Disney did something interesting with the story. The scene at the beginning is extended into its own musical number where Alice speculates about the perfect world, a world free of everything that makes this world boring. She wants cats to talk as well, thus becoming the world’s very first furry. The rest of the film turns into an exploration of Alice’s folly, showing us exactly why we need things to make sense.

I feel this is the wrong way to approach the original story. It reverses the meaning of everything. Instead of showing how silly and illogical a real life government can be at times (this is an especially appropriate lesson given the United States presidential primaries going on as I write this), the caucus race becomes the invention of a very foreign land where nonsense is the first and only order of business for the day, and the lesson for Alice is that real life is better because it is not like this at all.

In fact, the lesson that Alice must take away at the end of the film is that imagination is a bad thing. Talking cats do more harm than good, sane people are so much better to hang out around than mad people (okay, that one’s somewhat true) and you shouldn’t look for wonder in a world with firm, set physical laws.

Contrariwise, it’s Alice’s imagination that gets her out of trouble at least once. It isn’t explicitly pointed out in the film, but Alice consciously alters the rules of Wonderland without realizing it when she is stuck as large as a giant in the White Rabbit’s home. There’s no reason for her to suspect that the carrot she eats would have magical shrinking properties, and yet it somehow does.

So Disney feels the need to censor a cigarette from Pecos Bill, but the entire Caterpillar scene in Alice in Wonderland remains intact? Sure, there are tobacco-free mixtures that can be smoked through a hookah, but come on. Do we really think that the Caterpillar wasn’t smoking some really weird shi...shtuff?

Anyway, the final impression I get from the film is that it’s a great movie if you can stand it. Preferably upright, but it’ll still work on its side. However, if that’s not the case, or if you’ve lost the case entirely, you may have to purchase a replacement case or put the DVD in one of those protective CD/DVD books. I’d read the book instead, if I were you. But then if I were you, I wouldn’t have written this review and it wouldn’t exist unless someone else were me. That might already have happened, come to think of it.

animated movie Alice in Wonderland © Disney
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Alice in Wonderland
2.75 stars / 20 ratings
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