Australian Council on Children and the Media

Alice in Wonderland

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Not recommended under 12, PG to 15 (Violence and scary scenes).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Alice in Wonderland
  • a review of Alice in Wonderland completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 March 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes particularly in the 3D version.
Children 12-14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes.
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Alice in Wonderland
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy violence and scary scenes
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Tim Burton’s version of this classic story is based on both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Alice, (Mia Wosikowska) now 19, has just been proposed to by the unappealing but correct Hamish (Leo Bill). Needing some time to frame a reply, she wanders off into the garden where she sees the White Rabbit (voiced by Martin Sheen). Running after him, Alice falls down the rabbit hole and returns to the Wonderland she had travelled to as a child, but of which she has no recollection. There she meets her old friends Tweedledum and Tweedledee (both voiced by Matt Lucas), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), the Cheshire cat (Stephen Fry) and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). The friends debate as to whether Alice is the real Alice or not and if she has returned to slay the Jabberwocky (Paul Lee) as foretold in Wonderland prophesy.

Alice finds that Wonderland has become desolate under the rule of the wicked Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the inhabitants live in fear of losing their heads. Alice has to decide whether she can confront her fears and live up to the task of facing the Jabberwocky, the fiercest of all creatures in Wonderland, and help to pass the crown to the Red Queen’s younger, gentler sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Mental illness; war

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • The Dormouse stabs Alice in the foot with a knife to see if she’ll wake up from a dream.
  • The Bandersnatch, a wild bear-like animal, crashes through the forest chasing Alice and her companions. The red army captures many of them. The creature slashes Alice’s arm with its claws and she is nearly hit by rocks.
  • The Dormouse stabs the Bandersnatch with her knife, removing its eye.
  • A large bird grabs Tweedledum and Tweedledee and flies with them upside down, hitting their heads on branches.
  • The Red Queen’s army attacks the White Queen’s court. They vaporize a knight, set fire to the village and destroy everything in their path.
  • The Red Queen uses a frightened hedgehog, that’s been tied up, as a ball for her croquet game and also uses a flamingo as the mallet.
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee punch and kick each other
  • Stayne, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) has a fight with the Mad Hatter.
  • The Red Queen repeatedly hits Stayne.
  • The Mad Hatter and the Dormouse are led out to their execution, which is to be carried out by an executioner wearing long grey robes and holding a large sword. The Mad Hatter puts his head on the block and the sword actually comes down, but instead of decapitating him, he just loses his hat.
  • The final battle scene is quite intense – the two armies meet and the Jabberwocky throws everyone into panic. A large bird is killed by a rock. Alice, armed with a sword, has to battle the Jabberwocky which comes to life from a pile of stone, its great wings bursting out of the rock as it gives a terrible screeching cry. Alice attempts to fight it on the ground but is nearly killed numerous times. She gains the advantage on some steps after nearly being bitten in half and is able to decapitate it after flying high into the air and landing on its back. The Jabberwocky’s head rolls down the steps, stopping at the bottom where the White Queen collects some of the purple venom dripping from its fangs (Alice needs to drink this in order to get back home).

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned scary violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Alice falls down the rabbit hole quite suddenly and screams as she flies down through the earth narrowly missing getting hit by pianos, books and all kids of odds and ends. At certain points it looks as if she is about to be crushed, but then the fall ends.
  • Alice finds herself upside down on the ceiling. When she jumps onto the floor, she finds herself trapped and can’t find a way out.
  • Alice drinks unknown substances, which make her shrink and grow. While she is small, the Mad Hatter stuffs her into a teapot, to hide her from dogs and later throws her on his hat across the river to escape the pursuing dogs and soldiers.
  • There are many scary looking creatures and monsters including the Bandersnatch, which has a large mouth and snapping teeth.
  • The Cheshire Cat appears and disappears, sometimes disembodied.
  • The Red Queen has a bulbous head and many of the characters in the court have strange appearances such as long noses.
  • The Jabberwocky is a huge, very scary, dragon-like creature with red eyes. It breathes fire and its tongue lashes out.
  • Alice has to cross a stream on stepping-stones, which are actually the faces of severed heads. Her foot slips into the mouth of one.
  • The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) makes a potion for Alice with what looks like real fingers in it.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be scared by  the scenes described above, particularly if they see the 3D version.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are  likely to be scared by some of the scenes described above, particularly if they see the 3D version.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • The Knave of hearts corners Alice in a hallway and tells her that he “likes her” as he presses up against her. She shoves him away in disgust.
  • The Knave of Hearts then accuses Alice of trying to seduce him when the Queen hears about the incident.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • When Alice grows large her dress shrinks and she is suddenly wearing skimpy undergarments that show a bit of cleavage and a lot of thigh.
  • When she shrinks her dresses are left behind, having grown too large for her, and she has to wear a flimsy, makeshift dress that she must repeatedly adjust.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • The Blue Caterpillar smokes a hookah.
  • A number of potions are used to make Alice change size.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “Stupid girl” is used on a couple of occasions, as is the word “bloody.”

In a nutshell

Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy adventure movie, made quite intense by the amazing graphics in the 3D version. Originally written as a commentary on Victorian Britain, the story still holds much interest today. This version is darker than the original stories and the violence and numerous frightening scenes make the movie inappropriate for young children, but older children and their parents may be able to enjoy together.

The main messages from this movie are to believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • girls and women can be heroic.
  • young women can choose their own destiny and have an adventurous life and career that don’t depend on marriage.

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