Like a sketch from Johnny Depp favourite 'The Fast Show', you can see the actor and director Tim Burton in decades to come as old codgers, sitting beside a log fire or on a park bench and rambling over all the films they made together. 'Do you remember the make-up on that, Johnny?' 'How could I forget? I'm still finding strange bits of it behind my ears'. And Depp and Burton are only 20 years and eight movies into their friendship and creative partnership - they've got plenty of both in them yet. So where will 'Alice...' rank on their final list? In a decent place, but not at the top.
Alice (Wasikowska) is now a 19-year-old woman whose mother wants her to marry a bungling toff. On the day of his proposal, in front of all the snooty guests, Alice does a runner, disappears down the rabbit hole and ends up renewing acquaintances with the Mad Hatter (Depp), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Lucas), Mallymkun (Windsor) and the rest of the gang.
All is not well in these parts. The Red Queen (Bonham Carter) has the locals terrified and only Alice can kill her dragon, the Jabberwocky, and usher in a peaceful regime under the White Queen (Hathaway). Not much of an ask, then.
Those who gorge themselves on Burton's visuals and the worlds he fills with them will belch with satisfaction at his vision of Wonderland (Underland in the movie). But for all the ingenuity, attention to detail, great creations and vivid colours, 'Alice...' isn't the classic it had the potential to be.
There are a couple of problems here. At 108 minutes, Burton's film could've done with another half-hour of plot development. At times it feels like the director is in too much of a hurry to get from one scene to next - and no amount of effects can make you ignore that. And while Burton has assembled a superb supporting cast, they're all more interesting than Wasikowska's Alice, who is strangely unmoving as our hero. More humour may have helped her do more with the character.
Ultimately, what this film will be remembered for is 3-D magic, the size of the Red Queen's head and Depp falling down the rabbit hole of his own talent and coming up with another classic for the photo album. Long may he continue to find that strange make up behind his ears.