Alice [2000/II]

This adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland mixes animation and live action to create a dreamlike world, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's simply a kid's film. Young Alice (Kristyna Kohoutov√°, spoken by Camilla Power) watches a stuffed and mounted rabbit come to life in her playroom and follows it through a magical drawer into a strange world that resembles a 19th-century toy store come to life, with a few specimens from a natural history museum thrown in. Czech animator Jan Svankmajer retains the familiar story elements but tweaks them with bizarre imagery brought to herky-jerky life with his spasmodic style of stop-motion animation. The caterpillar becomes a sock puppet with dentures, while other crazy creatures materialize as creepy skull-headed beings that bleed sawdust. Throughout the tale Svankmajer returns to punctuating close-ups of Alice's lips telling the story, just to remind us that this is a tale told. In the best surrealist tradition Svankmajer uses familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, giving a fantasy quality to the banal (and the not so banal) while tipping the dream logic to the edge of nightmare. While the imagery remains more unsettling than genuinely disturbing, younger children will certainly be happier with Disney's brightly colored animated classic Alice in Wonderland. Older children and adults will better appreciate Svankmajer's sly visual wit and unusual animation style. --Sean Axmaker

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