Adapting a book, written essentially without narrative and with language largely comprised of nonsense, would present even the most imaginative directors with great problems.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, like the best of the attempts to recreate Alice’s adventures outside its literary source, succeeds tonally, if not narratively to follow the arc of the storyline. The costumes that turn the cast of stars into Wonderland’s creatures are strange, funny and occasionally terrifying, and give the film a weirdness more akin to Jan Svankmier’s animated adaptation ‘Alice’, or American McGee’s Alice, the cult PC video game. Scenes that stand out are the wonderful tea party sequence, where the superbly cast Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore shine as the March Hare and Dormouse, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s Robert Helpmann’s Hatter is straight out of the Tenniel illustrations.
The film is strange, punctured with songs that range from charming to unmemorable, dotted with an inherent creepiness that benefits the story’s odd origins and led by an Alice who is suitable at best. As adaptations go this is far greater than the watered down Disney effort, and goes a lot further to try and unravel the twisted world that Carrol created. Not perfect by any means, but you’d be hard pressed to find a film more full of strikingly comic, bizarre and on occasion disturbing imagery.