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Alice In Wonderland (1999)

DVD Cover (Vivendi Visual Entertainment)
Movie Connections:
Alice In Wonderland
> Alice In Wonderland (1933)
> Alice In Wonderland (1951)
> Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated... (1976)
> Alice In Wonderland (1985)
> Alice (1988)
> Alice In Wonderland (1999)
> Alice (2009)
> Alice In Wonderland (2010)
> Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)
Genres:
Children's / Family, Children's Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Legends, Fantasy
Director:
Nick Willing Nick Willing
Starring:
Robbie Coltrane Robbie Coltrane
Whoopi Goldberg Whoopi Goldberg
Ben Kingsley Ben Kingsley
Christopher Lloyd Christopher Lloyd
Pete Postlethwaite Pete Postlethwaite

6.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: February 26, 2014
A few months ago, one of my best friends passed away. She was one of the biggest bibliophiles you could ever hope to meet, and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was her absolute favorite; her extensive book collection had no less than fifteen different copies and variations of it. It's her birthday today, and I'd like to review a handful of adaptations as something of a tribute to her. In 1999, NBC released one, and while I've had the DVD for over a year, I've never actually sat down to watch it. It ended up being one of my favorite adaptations yet.

This version changes up the frame story somewhat; Alice has been practicing the song "Cherry Ripe" for a performance at her mother's tea party. While it's only going to be a small crowd, stage fright is eating the poor girl alive, and shortly before tea time, she runs off and hides in the bushes. Here the story picks up as we know it. She looks up from the bush, sees the white rabbit running through woods, chases it into a rabbit hole and finds herself in a fantastic world with a whole lot of crazy characters.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this so much is that Alice is actually enjoying her time in Wonderland. I've mentioned many times in other reviews that when filmmakers take the route that she's trapped there and trying to get out, it's more difficult to enjoy her adventures. Sure, you could make the argument she only wants to stay because she's hiding from her performance, but seeing her laughter at her new friends' antics just adds that much weight to the viewer's own enjoyment. Plus, once she actually gets into Wonderland, this adaptation is the most accurate representation of the source material I've seen yet, even including some scenes that are usually cut, like the Hatter and the March Hare trying to stuff the Dormouse into the teapot, the Cheshire Cat's being in the Duchess' kitchen, and most importantly to me personally, the Lobster Quadrille.

This movie was brought to life with both CGI and puppetry, and here's the thing about the computer half. It looked incredibly cartoony (after all, this was a made-for-TV movie in the nineties), but it fit the whimsical nature of Alice in Wonderland beautifully, so while I'm sure it wasn't done on purpose, it had no collateral damage. The puppetry on the other hand was handled by Jim Henson's company, so you know that was quality. The White Rabbit had the same aesthetic as the Ninja Turtles from the beginning of the decade, and I wish they would have used that style for more of the characters. The crowd Alice meets when she crawls out of her tears are all regular people with accents on certain features that would suit their animal, and the Caterpillar and Mock Turtle both had human heads. I guess the budget wasn't there to make full costumes for characters with only one scene, but it really makes you think what could have been.

Tina Majorina might be my favorite Alice yet. Again, the filmmakers let her have fun on her adventure, and the girl's got a killer smile. Her English accent may have been a bit overdone, but I'll let that slide. Same with Miranda Richardson somewhat. At first, I hated her whiny, childish take on the Red Queen, but the more I thought about it, it really wasn't that far off from the book. Then, of course, my favorite character, the Mock Turtle was played by the infamous Gene Wilder. While I'll admit that maybe I would have liked him sadder and under a puppeteer's hood instead of a human head, the man can do no wrong, and this was one of his last roles before becoming disenchanted with the film industry. When you add in tertiary roles by such names as Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lloyd, you know have a solid chain to work with. Unfortunately however, this chain has a serious weak link, and that is the Hatter and the March Hare. As the Hatter, Martin Short was, to put it delicately, annoying as fuck. Five minutes in, I had it up to here with the manic screaming, and Hare wasn't much better. Plus, despite my phrase for the puppetry earlier, he looked terrible.

Between the accuracy of the adaptation and the magic of Jim Henson, I loved this one. I'm sad it took me so long to sit down with this, and even sadder that I never got to watch it with my friend. I'm sure she would have loved it as much as I did. 8/10.
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