Story

Tim Burton’s version of this classic story is based on both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. In this version, Alice (Mia Wosikowska) is 19. The unappealing but correct Hamish (Leo Bill) has just proposed to her. Needing some time to frame a reply, Alice wanders off into the garden, where she sees the White Rabbit (voiced by Martin Sheen). Running after him, Alice falls down a rabbit hole and returns to the Wonderland she visited as a child. She has no recollection of being there before. She meets her old friends Tweedledum and Tweedledee (both voiced by Matt Lucas), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), the Cheshire cat (Stephen Fry), and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). The friends argue about whether Alice is the real Alice. They also wonder whether she has returned to slay the Jabberwocky (Paul Lee), the fiercest of all creatures in Wonderland. This has been foretold in Wonderland prophecy.

Alice finds that Wonderland has become desolate under the rule of the wicked Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). The inhabitants live in fear of losing their heads. Alice has to decide whether she can confront her fears and live up to the task of facing the Jabberwocky. She must also help pass the crown to the Red Queen’s younger, gentler sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

Themes

Mental illness; war

Violence

This movie includes some violence. For example:

  • The Dormouse stabs Alice in the foot with a knife to see if she’ll wake up from a dream.
  • The Bandersnatch, a wild bear-like animal, crashes through the forest chasing Alice and her companions. The red army captures many of them. The creature slashes Alice’s arm with its claws, and she is nearly hit by rocks.
  • The Dormouse stabs the Bandersnatch with her knife, removing its eye.
  • A large bird grabs Tweedledum and Tweedledee and flies with them upside down. They hit their heads on branches.
  • The Red Queen’s army attacks the White Queen’s court. They vaporise a knight, set fire to the village, and destroy everything in their path.
  • The Red Queen uses a frightened hedgehog, which has been tied up, as a ball for her croquet game. She also uses a flamingo as her mallet.
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee punch and kick each other.
  • Stayne, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), has a fight with the Mad Hatter.
  • The Red Queen repeatedly hits Stayne.
  • The Mad Hatter and the Dormouse are led out to their execution. It is to be carried out by an executioner wearing long grey robes and holding a large sword. The Mad Hatter puts his head on the block, and the sword comes down. Instead of losing his head, though, the Hatter just loses his hat.
  • The final battle scene is quite intense. The two armies meet, and the Jabberwocky throws everyone into panic. A rock kills a large bird. Armed with a sword, Alice has to battle the Jabberwocky. It comes to life from a pile of stone, its great wings bursting out of the rock as it gives a terrible screeching cry. Alice attempts to fight it on the ground but is nearly killed many times. She gains the advantage on some steps after nearly being bitten in half and is able to cut its head off after flying high into the air and landing on its back. The Jabberwocky’s head rolls down the steps, stopping at the bottom. The White Queen collects some of the purple venom dripping from its fangs. Alice needs to drink this to get back home.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the scary and violent scenes mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:

  • Alice falls down the rabbit hole quite suddenly. She screams as she flies down through the earth and is almost hit by pianos, books and other things. At certain points, it looks as though she will be crushed, but then the fall ends.
  • Alice finds herself upside down on the ceiling. When she jumps onto the floor, she is trapped and can’t find a way out.
  • Alice drinks unknown substances, which make her shrink and grow. While she is small, the Mad Hatter stuffs her into a teapot, to hide her from dogs. He later throws her on his hat across the river to escape pursuing dogs and soldiers.
  • There are many scary-looking creatures and monsters including the Bandersnatch, which has a large mouth and snapping teeth.
  • The Cheshire Cat appears and disappears, and is sometimes disembodied.
  • The Red Queen has a bulbous head. Many of the characters in the court have strange appearances, such as long noses.
  • The Jabberwocky is a huge, very scary, dragon-like creature with red eyes. It breathes fire, and its tongue lashes out.
  • Alice has to cross a stream on stepping stones, which are actually the faces of severed heads. Her foot slips into the mouth of one.
  • The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) makes a potion for Alice. It looks like the potion has real fingers in it.

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be scared by some of the scenes described above, particularly if they see the 3D version.

Over 13

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

This movie contains some sexual references. For example:

  • The Knave of Hearts corners Alice in a hallway and tells her that he ‘likes her’ as he presses up against her. She shoves him away in disgust.
  • When the Queen hears about the incident, the Knave says Alice tried to seduce him.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie contains some use of substances. For example:

  • The Blue Caterpillar smokes a hookah.
  • Several potions are used to make Alice change size.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie contains some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • When Alice grows large, her dress shrinks. Suddenly, she is wearing skimpy underwear that shows a bit of cleavage and a lot of thigh.
  • When she shrinks, her dresses are left behind because they’re too big for her. She has to wear a flimsy, makeshift dress that she must repeatedly adjust.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

This movie contains some mild coarse language and name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy adventure movie, made quite intense by the amazing graphics in the 3D version. Originally written as a commentary on Victorian Britain, the story still holds much interest today. This version is darker than the original stories, however. The violence and many frightening scenes make the movie inappropriate for young children, but older kids and their parents might be able to enjoy it together.

The main messages from this movie are to believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:

  • Girls and women can be heroic.
  • Young women can choose their own destiny and have an adventurous life and career that don’t depend on marriage.