Over the years Tim Burton has made movies that were, as the saying roughly goes, matches made in heaven. Exploring fairy tales in Big Fish, children's love of candy in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, well, a vengeful, murdering barber in Sweeney Todd. But without a doubt the most perfect match to Burton's trademark distinctive visual style - the mix of the weird and the wonderful, whether clothed in darkness or lit up with bright colours - is Alice in Wonderland.
Adapted from the classic Lewis Carroll tale, but almost a sequel to it, Burton's film sees the titular Alice not visiting Wonderland for the first time but returning 13 years later at the age of 19. The trouble is, she doesn't remember it (or only has vague recollections she mistakes for a dream she had when she was younger). After running out on her boyfriend proposing in front of her entire family and friends at a high class party, she reaches down a hole only to fall down and land in the magical Wonderland.
Once there, Alice first meets the White Rabbit and then the rest of the familiar Wonderland characters including the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), the March Hare (voiced by Paul Whitehouse), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) and, of course, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). Soon after arriving Alice learns of her true destiny: to end the reign of the horrid Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) to make sure her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), can take her place on the throne.
Purists of the original Carroll story will probably be up in arms about the change Burton has made to the story. Instead of a little girl barely in primary school, Burton's Alice is almost 20 years old and already into adulthood. But from a story point of view it makes things a bit more interesting, or at least as interesting. This way we get the element of all the characters of Wonderland remembering Alice but her not remembering them. And since she's a lot older and she looks different, the characters then are left wondering if she is, indeed, the right Alice.
All the ingredients are here for a movie that should fit comfortably near the top of Burton's best work. The costumes are exquisite, the voice work (and voice casting) is outstanding, most of the performances are brilliant (Depp and Bonham Carter in particular) and visually it's a stunning film.