Prior to taking my sons to Tim Burton’s 3-D version of "Alice in Wonderland," I did some light research to make sure the film was appropriate for kids, specifically mine, ages 6 and 7. The film has a PG rating, which sometimes indicates questionable content, but I decided the story, steeped in fantasy, would be well received. And if not, well, I’d have a couple of extra bed partners for the week.
My boys loved the film and it was a fear-free movie-watching experience. They were absolutely captivated, so much so that, for the first time in baby cinema history, we didn’t make a single trip to the bathroom despite the bicycle basket-sized lemonades.
If I were to ballpark, the new "Alice in Wonderland" is most likely appropriate for kids who are at least 6 years old. Younger children -- as well as very sensitive older kids -- might be afraid of a few scenes. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a list of film facts that might help you decide whether or not "Alice" is a good fit for your lil’ rabbit.
Positive, kid-friendly aspects of the new "Alice In Wonderland" film:
1. Girl power. Alice is strong, confident and triumphant throughout the film. Her character thinks for herself, uses her imagination, questions societal norms and finds courage within herself during times of challenge. Alice makes multiple statements that reinforce the strong female theme, including "Sometimes I think six impossible things before breakfast," "I make the path; it’s my dream" and "I can slay that jabberwocky!"
2. Positive portrayal of death. (Spoiler alert!) The hookah-smoking caterpillar’s life ends in this film, but when Alice asks the ailing insect, "Are you going to die?" he corrects her calmly and unemotionally with the word, "Transform." The last few seconds of the film further reinforce the notion that death is not only an ending, but also the beginning of something new.
3. Growth through imagination and dreams. The ability to work out real-life problems via the imagination and through dream time is an underlying theme in this film. Alice does not "wake up" until she slays the jabberwocky, metaphorically conquering her demons. Her imagination is a source of entertainment and positive escape from the "real" world.
4. A celebration of lack of convention, the unknown and "madness." The film promotes beyond-the-box thinking, individuality and uncertainty. (We never find out how a raven is like a writing desk.) It nods to the creative class while pointing out the absurdity of "normal" behavior. One conversation between Alice and the Mad Hatter demonstrates this perfectly:
Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I’m afraid so. Absolutely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret, all the best people are.
5. Amazing story line / visuals. The movie is pure adventure, visually stunning and laden with whimsy. It’s dark at times, but like 2009’s film version of "Where the Wild Things Are," this film takes into account that kids are not really living in a popsicle-and-balloon TraLa Land even though we might want them to. Also, it acknowledges "happy accidents" and reminds that, sometimes, falling down a rabbit hole needs to happen.
Finally, although Burton could have picked much creepier imagery, most of the animals, particularly the frogs and the Cheshire cat, are adorable.
Possible red flags in the film:
1. Some scenes contain violence. The film features an eyeball stabbing and extraction, a bridge made from "offed" heads, a smack down between the red queen and the knave and a dark, five-minute jabberwocky slaying at the very end of the film.
2. The tokin’ caterpillar. Although Alice coughs and shows a look of distaste for the caterpillar’s hookah smoke, it is still very much a part of his character and appears in multiple scenes.
3. One brief sexual innuendo. The unsettling, scar-faced knave (brilliantly cast with Crispin Glover) backs Alice against a wall after she ate the growth-inducing cake. "I like largeness," he says with smarm. Swiftly, she gets away.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.