Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Film #235


Alice stumbles into the world of Wonderland. Will she get home? Not if the Queen of Hearts has her way.

Year 1, Day 235

BEFORE: The next two days will be focusing on one story, that of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Both versions I have note seen but today we begin with the 1951 animated Alice in Wonderland version. I am familiar with various characters (Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter) but have no clue what the story is about other than Alice goes through a looking glass so it should be interesting to see how things play out.

AFTER: Maybe the reason I never got around to watching as Alice in Wonderland as a kid is because it never made any sense. It looked like a bunch of fantastical nonsense with lots of weird looking characters and locations. And when you have the option of watching that or a more straightforward and sensical film like Peter Pan, Aladdin, or Mulan among others, Alice in Wonderland isn’t going to be at the top of the list.

And nor will it after having finally seen it. Similar to Peter Pan yesterday, a lot of the story elements seemed rushed and episodic, as if they were forced into the direction of the film rather than coming naturally in the progression of events. The one thing that works in favor of the film is that this direction is a stylistic choice rather than a unplanned occurrence. The film feels like a book of fables, full of multiple stories each with their own messages and purposes. While I think it fits the film, and is probably a large part of the book it’s based off of, there’s still a part of me that feels it could have been incorporated better, for instance, with elaboration and longer runtime (although that may not have been technically/economically feasible at the time).

Where the film really disappoints and is unlike the others I’ve seen so far in this marathon is the characters. With the exception of the White Hare (Bill Thompson, last heard as Mr. Smee in Peter Pan) there really weren’t any characters that I found interesting or entertaining. Alice just seems to be whisked away on this adventure and has no say or power in what’s happening to her. As we find out later, Alice does have control over things, but even when you realize what’s been happening the whole film it doesn’t help with her character. She still seems helpless, just an object that’s being manipulated rather a real person capable of doing things for herself. And since the film is told episodically, the supporting characters you meet really don’t have much screen time to develop a personality of their own. Just as you start to know them, they go away and new character take their place.

Alice in Wonderland, the 1951 animated version, doesn’t have much going for it. Since I haven’t read the Lewis Carroll book I can’t comment on how similar/truthful the adaptation is, but I can say the characters in the film lack real personality. And the story telling, while fitting the style the film is going for, isn’t the best example and just leaves you wanting more. Especially with all of these other animated films to choose from, I’m finding it hard to recommend watching Alice in Wonderland.

RATING: 2 out of 5