The title of Tim Burton's new film plays an elegant and dizzying little game, entirely in keeping with its tone and theme. This movie shows us Alice in Wonderland but it is not a film of Alice in Wonderland, or indeed of Through the Looking-Glass, although most of its characters are drawn from these two books. The screenplay is by Linda Woolverton. Alice is 19 now, she has been dreaming of Wonderland for many years. We have seen her as a little girl, in a brief prelude, being reassured by her father that it's all right to have strange dreams and a good thing to be crazy anyway, because all the best people are. I'm not sure this second proposition is as comforting as it's supposed to be, but it works for Alice, who interprets it, at the end of the film, to mean that she should become a bold entrepreneur like her father, and sell some sort of unnamed goods to China, which apparently no one has thought of doing. You would have to believe in Wonderland, perhaps, in order to believe in China. Even Alice, though, wonders about having had the same dream over and over for years. Don't other people have different dreams, she asks her mother. Her mother doesn't know, presumably because she has no dreams at all.
LRB 25 March 2010 | PDF Download