Alice in Wonderland

by Tony Phoenix, staff writer
Alice In Wonderland
(2010) | 109 min. | PG | Reviewed by Tony Phoenix
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Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 5 stars Video 5 stars
Goodies 3 stars Movie 3 stars
  Value 3 stars  

DVD Features

  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 2010
  • 1.78:1
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Blu-Ray: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • French and Spanish Language Tracks
  • Subtitles: Closed Captioned, English Descriptive Video Service
  • Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / $44.99 Blu-Ray

The Movie

When I first heard that Tim Burton was making a live action version of Alice in Wonderland, I was intrigued. How would the combination of a director known for the surreal portray one of the most surreal worlds ever created? Visually, the movie is everything you could hope for, and more. The colors and images are just stunning. Unfortunately, I find the story to be a muddled mess.

That isn't to say it doesn't start out well. We first encounter Alice as a nearly 20-year-old, about to be married off to a stuffy British Lord. She flees her surprise enagagement party, and promptly falls down a rabbit hole. Her memories of the previous visit to Wonderland are missing or suppressed, with only a few memories echoing in the background. She is promptly informed by a committee of the Dormouse, Caterpillar, and White Rabbit that she is the "wrong Alice". The next 60 minutes are spent with Alice insisting that this is all a hallucination or dream and ultimately, she must decide to be the White Queen's champion and face the Jaberwocky.

The first hour of Alice is interesting and there is some story behind it; but the final forty minutes feel like it was written by a committee - or as game at a children's party where each child writes five minutes of a story, then passes it to the next person for their turn to write the next five.

On the other hand, Danny Elfman's soundtrack is beautiful. I've long been a fan of soundtracks and I rate this as a close tie with Nightmare Before Christmas as some of Eflman's best work. To be honest, I would be very content to simply watch the film with just the soundtrack, and no dialogue.

Image Copyright Walt Disney Studios

The Goodies

Three DVD editions of Alice in Wonderland are being offered. The basic DVD includes just a handful of bonus features (Finding Alice, The Mad Hatter, and Effecting Wonderland). The Basic Blu-Ray edition includes all of the bonus material below, while the Combo Pack includes the DVD, Blu-Ray and a Digital Copy.

Wonderland Characters

The Wonderland Characters segments focus on the actors and the characters they portray. Sadly, they only focus on a few of the characters in these segments.

Finding Alice (5:25) - This segment looks at everything from how this movie differs from Disney's animated Alice to how Tim Burton saw this Alice coming to life.
The Mad Hatter (6:02) - Learn who designed the Hatter look and why, and how Johnny Depp's eyes were altered to give him his distinctive look.
The Futterwacken Dance (3:23) - Love it or hate it, this dance had people talking. Meet the inspiration for the actual dance.
The Red Queen (5:58) - Probably the most dramatic of characters in the movie, the Red Queen looks at makeup, costume, and what it took to make her head so big.
Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen (2:40) - A two minute condensed version of the three-hour makeup process to get Helena Bonham Carter ready for the camera.
The White Queen (4:27) - Anne Hathaway talks about her character's development and how she wanted to portray the true queen.

Image Copyright Walt Disney Studios

Making Wonderland


Scoring Wonderland (3:10) - Danny Elfman talks about how he and Tim Burton collaborated to develop the soundtrack behind the movie.
Effecting Wonderland (6:53) - Probably the most interesting of all of the short features, this looks at how special effects created Stayne, the Tweedles, the Bandersnatch and others.
Stunts of Wonderland (2:34) - A brief short on some of the stunts required for the film - how Alice appeared on the Hatter's hat is pretty cool.
Making the Proper Size (2:13) - Alice seems to constantly be growing and shrinking, and this feature shows how they did it.
Cakes of Wonderland (2:34) - It turns out, most of the cakes at the tea party were edible. Meet the bakers who had to make so many different speciality cakes and pastries.
Tea Party Props (2:04) - A quick look at the props used in the tea party - and how many of each item it took to make the film.

Image Copyright Walt Disney Studios

The Final Evaluation

All told, the full offering of bonus material clocks in at less than 40 minutes. This has to be one of the most anemic releases from Disney in a very long time. For a movie as spectaularly visual and with as much history behind it, to have this minimal amount of bonus material available is disappointing to say the least. The visuals and soundtrack are beautiful and enchanting, but the story drops the ball. The DVD/Blu-Ray transfers are technically perfect.

If you loved the movie, then by all means, pick up a copy. If you missed it in theaters, and would like to see what all the buzz was about, it's worth a rental. Personally I would not consider this to be a "must have" title for most collections.