Tim Burton takes a grim and dark view of Alice and her friends in this 3-D version of Lewis Carroll's famous children's story. Stephen Fry's voice as The Cheshire Cat and Johnny Depp's constant motion lends energy to this strange film.

Psychologically the film is about coming of age and Identity formation. It also has elements of sibling rivalry, gender and mental illness discrimination. Starring a very pale Mia Wasikowska, who came to fame as a confused adolescent in the HBO series In Treatment and Johnny Depp who appears to be Mr. Burton's muse, the plot moves along from the safety of lush aristocratic gardens, to the dangers of a scary drug dreamscape.

Unlike Avatar the 3-D is a bit gimmicky at times but "Underland (Wonderland)" and it's creatures are fantastic. I loved The March Hare (Paul Whitehouse).

Don't let the Disney logo fool you. The hysterical murderous Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), The evil Knave and The Jabberwocky are scary and parents should be warned. Severed floating heads in a moat gave this reviewer bad dreams. Like most Disney films, Alice seems to start out without a mother. In fact, the women in this film are not really helpful. This includes the (very) White Queen (a campy Ann Hathaway). The Red Queen is of course worse-obnoxious, greedy, and narcissistic. She is grotesque looking as well with an enormous head. But again this is Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sweeney Todd) who has a whole exhibit presently at The Museum of Modern Art, devoted to his bizarre, and often violent creations. Alice incorporates much wisdom from her father and uses it in a Joseph Campbell manner in her Journey as a Hero. Along the way, she changes sizes, ideas and perceptions of reality. She may be a warrior like Pocahontas, an innocent like Snow White, but this Alice is all Girl Power. She does not need a man to define her. She is her own person.

The film is rated PG but should be rated PG-13.

Michael Brody
mbrody@umd.edu