This story has quite a pedigree, dating back to the 19th century and featuring in many a childhood reading list and popular culture reference. I read the book when I was a kid, and whilst there were suggestions that it may have derived some narrative from illicit substances, it remains a cracking good, albeit Victorian-era read.
Cue director par excellence Tim Burton to update this phenomenal tale for the 21st century, complete with stunning CGI and heavy-handed plot revision.
Now I know that reviews have been 'mixed'. A ranking of 53% on 'Rotten Tomatoes' isn't a disaster but it ain't no 'Avatar' either. And Burton has the problem of attempting to create a film suitable for kids without turning off the grown-ups, many of whom will have high expectations of a tale they've likely seen/read before.
So how is it? Well first of all, the large auditorium we saw it in was packed. Has to be a good sign as at many films these days, the audience can be counted on two hands with enough digits left to make a rabbit on the screen. This time round the only onscreen rabbit was the one beckoning Alice to another world, and following a bog standard Victorian marriage proposal at a bog standard National Trust property, that's exactly where she went.
After a little eat me/drink me growing/shrinking experience, Alice enters her new world and begins to encounter some bizarre characters. Tweedledum and Tweedledee are both Matt Lucas, which does make you wonder if he recieved two appearance fees. The Cheshire Cat is played rather wonderfully by Stephen Fry, who manages to encapsulate the feline essence to perfection. And then we have Alan Rickman playing a blue caterpillar with the voice of Sevirus Snape. But I digress.
The party is quickly crashed by a rather fearsome (for kids) Bandersnatch and the Red Queen's guards, all intent on mayhem and mischief. Once the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter the queen of petulance herself in another wonderfully OTT display) learns of Alice arrival in the Kingdom, she issues a warrant for her arrest, something which generally results in involuntary decapitation.
Having evaded capture for the moment, Alice gets to meet the Mad Hatter, who turns out to rather less psychologically challenged than might be assumed and the March Hare, who most definitely is. The Hatter is of course Johnny Depp, perfectly cast in another slightly unhinged Jack Sparrow type role. He proceeds to set Alice on the path to her destiny as slayer of the Jaberwock and enabler of the White Queen's apparent claim to the throne.
The White Queen herself is played by Anne Hathaway, a kind of reverse goth with a delightful if occasionally troubling demanour. Again perfect casting.
Along the way we get stunning CGI, a decent narrative and a film that is, in my opinion, an absolute delight in every department. OK the plot digresses wildly from the original story and the constant reminders to Alice that she has 'been here before' seem somewhat pointless, but the topsy turvy cast and above all Alice herself, hold things together very nicely.
It's fantastic family entertainment and good, fun, hokey nonsense, just as Lewis Carroll intended it to be. Who could ask for more?