Alice In Wonderland (1933)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 6/25/20
Written By: Lewis Carroll
Cast: Charlotte Henry, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, W.C. Fields, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton

A delightful adaptation of Lewis Carroll's absurdist fairy tale, as a young and imaginative Alice (Charlotte Henry) dreams about visiting the world inside the looking glass. She meets a large array of bizarre characters, including the white rabbit, smoking caterpillar, March Hare, Mad Hatter, Duchess, Cheshire Cat, Humpty Dumpty (W.C. Fields), Gryphon, Mock Turtle (Cary Grant), Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, Red Queen, and White Knight (Gary Cooper).

As you would expect, given the nature of the material, the film is complete nonsense. However, it's only 76 minutes long, which makes it go by pretty quickly. Reportedly, critics did not react favorably to the original cut, which was over 90 minutes long. Paramount packed the film with a star-studded cast in an effort to avoid bankruptcy, but it flopped at the box office because everyone was hidden underneath elaborate costumes and makeup. Imagine being a Cary Grant fan and seeing him as the Mock Turtle. It would be a complete disappointment because there could be literally anyone in that costume.

The acting is uneven, but Charlotte Henry is delightfully charming throughout and makes a wonderful Alice. The film boasts some fantastic sets and astonishing visual effects, some of which I couldn't figure out. It also features some impressive and truly grotesque makeup, which would have definitely frightened me as a child. The film contains some shock value as well, as Alice plays croquet with real live flamingos and guinea pigs. It's also shocking how roughly the Duchess manhandles her baby, while Alice looks on in horror. Her reaction is so genuine that I'm not entirely sure she was acting. Given how many times "Alice In Wonderland" has been filmed, this version doesn't really add anything new, but it's an attractive and enjoyable romp nonetheless.