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Alice (2009)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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)

7.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Fairy Tales & Legends, Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure
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Review by Crispy
Added: February 26, 2015
It's been over a year since my friend Kerri passed away, and the time hasn't done much in the way of healing. Being her birthday has come around again, I thought I'd put together another round of adaptations based on her favorite book: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now, this two-episode SyFy miniseries isn't a straightforward adaptation, but rather used the book to loosely frame its world and characters.

Even though she's a successful judo instructor, Alice Hamilton is haunted by the sudden disappearance of her father ten years ago. She spends every waking moment searching the globe for clues and the resulting abandonment issues is playing Hell on her love life. Still, she's fairly confident about her new beau, Jack Chase. After a successful dinner date with her mother, Jack attempts to give her a ring that's been in his family for generations. Those old Daddy issues quickly pop back up, and Alice kicks him out, only to find he slipped the ring into her pocket in his farewell embrace. Following him into the street, she's just in time to see him being beaten and loaded into the back of a van; in her pursuit she's spotted by a strange man with two long, white ponytails that propositions her about the ring. She's able to throw him off by giving him its case and following him through a mirror, which transports her to the strange world of Wonderland. There, she ends up under the care of Hatter, a quick-talking conman who makes it very clear that he's helping her only because it'll put him in good standing with the local rebellion. After learning that Jack's ring is actually a powerful relic called the Stone of Wonderland, they team up with the sole remaining White Knight, Sir Charles, to save Jack from the Queen's clutches and bring her reign to an end.

So, this wasn't actually an adaptation per se. Instead, it was a completely original story that borrowed a few names and locations from the books just to say there was a connection. If you changed the names and a few choice pieces of imagery, I wouldn't have even thought about Alice in Wonderland while watching this. To me, that's not an adaptation or an homage, that's just a cheap way to draw in viewers. Just because you don't want to follow the book to the letter, doesn't mean you have to go completely off the rails with a few superficial bits and bobs to point at. While I wasn't a fan of the movie, Tim Burton's 2010 movie successfully used the book as an actual foundation for his own, completely original movie, so it could definitely be done. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as bad if the plot Alice did use wasn't such a hodge-podge of cliches. Sure, the story wasn't boring and it at least kept things moving, but there wasn't an original stitch in the whole affair. On top of that, it didn't have any kind of resolution; it was like they just said, "We're out of time! OK, everything's fine now! Happily ever after!" I'm willing to bet that they banged this script out in a single night, realized it was shit, and then attached the famous novel to it to give it a bit of traction. Talk about a bait and switch.

While the plot left me wanting more, one thing I can say is that at least the film looked good. Now, I'm not talking about the quality of the CGI, because that was pretty weak too, but the producers captured the whimsey of Wonderland extremely well, and blended it perfectly with the post-apocalyptica of the Queen's reign. This is best seen in the Tweedles' scene. Here, they're a set of twins that set about torturing the Queen's prisoners by psychedelically bringing their victims' memories to life. With that said, sometimes they went just a bit too far (did the Queen's men really need to fly around on flamingo based jet-bikes?) and others they came completely out of left field (I don't remember scarabs so much as mentioned throughout either book), but when they did hit it, it was a grand slam. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones that stuck with me the most were the two that took most prevalently from Carroll's pages. The jabberwock they hunts them in the woods and the chess city (both nods to the sequel, Through the Looking Glass) put huge smiles on my face.

Along with the visuals, the actors obviously had a ball with their characters, and this went miles to keep the show entertaining. Primarily, I'm referring to Andrew Lee-Potts and Matt Frewer as Hatter and the White Knight, Sir Charles respectively. While I wouldn't call either of them comedy relief, they're both funny, animated characters that go a long way in holding the viewers attention for the duration of the running time. Not to mention, they even get a bit of fleshing out. Giving the shafting the plot received, I'm amazed they didn't just give us flat, stock characters and called it a day. As Alice, Catarina Scorsone wasn't quite as entertaining as her two cohorts, but you'd expect Alice to be forced into something of a straight-man role, and she handles the more emotional scenes well enough. And then we have Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts. As you can imagine, I've got no complaints there.

So, the lack of any significant Alice in Wonderland connections aside, this wasn't horrible. There's some fun characters and there wasn't any drag in the three hour running time. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite good enough to warrant committing to that three hour running time either. It's biggest draw is going to be fans of Lewis Carroll, who are going to feel pretty alienated after seeing the route they took. 6/10.
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