Friday, February 17, 2012

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972)

An opulent adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s famous novel about a little girl encountering fantastical creatures, made with actors in deliberately artificial animal costumes, and featuring sets so two-dimensional they seem borrowed from a stage production, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feels like an attempt to create a British companion piece to The Wizard of Oz (1939). From the myriad musical numbers to the use of comedy performers in supporting roles, the picture echoes many elements of the MGM classic, yet doesn’t come close to emulating the magic of Dorothy Gale’s journey to a land over the rainbow. One issue is the malevolence inherent to Carroll’s narrative—whereas the beloved Disney cartoon made from this story, Alice in Wonderland (1951), replaced some of the creepier aspects of Carroll’s book with whimsical flourishes, this version accentuates the frightening nature of Alice’s experiences inside the rabbit hole. (Intense surrealism and lighthearted children’s entertainment aren’t exactly the best mix.) Other problem areas include John Barry’s score and Fiona Fullerton’s leading performance. Barry employs his standard idiom of sweepingly romantic strings, and the resulting music feels way too heavy for a lark about a little girl imagining that drinking magical potions can alter her natural size. As for Fullerton, she’s a pretty young woman whose looks are similar to those of Kirsten Dunst, but she seems too grown-up for this material even though she was a teenager when the film was shot. She’s also highly forgettable. Several English notables are wasted in featured roles as the Caterpillar, the Door Mouse, and other weirdly anthropomorphic Carroll creations; those zipping in and out of the movie without making much impact include Michael Crawford, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Ralph Richardson, and Peter Sellers.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: LAME

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