Alice in Wonderland (1999)

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Alice in Wonderland (1999) Movie Poster Image
Classic tale with puppets and CGI entertains but drags, too.
  • PG
  • 1999
  • 129 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Alice in Wonderland espouses the value of curiosity, problem-solving, and courage in the face of fear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alice is kind, well-meaning, and very curious. She uses her brain to reason things through and solve problems, and isn't afraid to stand up for herself or challenge assumptions.

Violence

The violence in Alice in Wonderland is minimal, but there is enough surreal absurdity and casual references to beheading to warrant a warning for young kids. In a few scenes, Alice grabs a large bird by the neck. In another, a hedgehog is used for a ball in croquet. When Alice is small, she often faces peril, as when she's chased by larger animals, such as a dog.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Alice in Wonderland is a well-established story associated with any number of characters, books, games, and other themed items marketed to children for decades, but this movie in particular has no specifically associated merchandise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alice drinks unknown liquids which make her shrink and expand. She eats mushrooms to return to a normal size. In one scene with the Mad Hatter, wine is offered to Alice, only to be rescinded due to her age.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this adaptation of Alice in Wonderland contains elements of absurdity and the surreal that could make it potentially frightening for younger viewers. With its casual references to beheading, some nonsensical scenes such as a baby turning into a pig, Alice shrinking and expanding, and an overall otherworldly logic, it risks being more confusing than fun.  

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What's the story?

Frantic with a bout of stage fright over having to sing at her parents' garden party, Alice (Tina Majorino) finds a convenient escape hatch when a White Rabbit wanders by, and her curiosity gets the best of her. Once down the rabbit hole, it's a topsy turvy absurdist romp through chaos and characters such as the Mad Hatter (Martin Short) and Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg). As Alice faces one riddle or conundrum after the next, she picks up a little confidence along the way.

Is it any good?

If you like the story -- and it's hard to imagine who doesn't -- this adaptation, the 12th chronologically, which combines bits from both the Alice and Looking Glass tales, offers up the usual charm. Alice is a delightfully curious and intelligent girl, and the characters from the Mad Hatter to the Queen of Hearts to rose-painting cards and talking cats, will entertain. Combining a mix of CGI, Henson-created puppets and live action, the film looks terrific, even years after its debut.

Still, some of the scenes drag a little, and it feels packed full of big-named actors who sometimes feel dropshipped in for face time, slowing down what it should be punching up. But this is largely a quibble, and children are unlikely to notice or care, so long as they have the attention span to stick with it for over two hours.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about curiosity as a positive quality and a negative quality. What sayings have you heard about curiosity as a quality in people and whether it's good or bad? How have you seen them depicted in other shows? Are you curious? Has it ever gotten you into trouble?

  • Alice faces many challenges in the film that she must solve using reason. What kind of problem-solving have you had to do on your own adventures?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love magic and fantasy

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