Lissa does Alice

“Does this look like a kids’ story to you?”

The Scoop: 2009, directed by Nick Willing, starring Caterina Scorsone, Kathy Bates, and Philip Whitmore

Tagline:
Everything you know will be turned on its head.

Summary Capsule:
Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there….


Lissa’s Rating: Curiouser and curiouser….

Lissa’s Review:
I am a sucker for anything related to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.  The books are in my Top Ten Books Ever, and I own a beautiful annotated edition that has the original illustrations.  I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, and given that I have long blonde hair, Alice is sort of my fall-back Halloween costume.  Well, it used to be.  I’m getting a little old to pull it off.  Even so, when I heard that the SCI-FI channel was doing a miniseries based on Alice in Wonderland, I viewed it with extreme trepidation.  Why?  A few words for you: Mansquito.  SS Doomtroopers.  Ice Spiders.  Pterodactyl.  Man-Thing.  Need I continue?

I am the first to admit that my judgment there is unfair.  My all-time favorite TV show ever (despite the ending) aired on SCI-FI.  Farscape (which I have not yet watched but we have acquired in the Amazon vs. Deep Discount price war) aired on SCI-FI.  I’ve heard great things about the Stargate franchise (or at the very least, good things), and that aired on SCI-FI.  Good things have come out of the SCI-FI channel.

(You might wonder why I keep capitalizing SciFi like that.  Well, as I’m sure anyone who’s enough of a geek to read this site knows, the SciFi channel has recently changed its name to SyFy, to avoid appearing too geeky.  Now, aside from the fact that this looks like bad internet slang for a STD, this is just DUMB.  The science fiction channel should be reveling in its geekiness.  If I ran that channel, I’d be making it MORE geeky, not less.  Who the heck do they think their target audience is, anyway???)

Anyway, I went into Alice prepared to mock and hate it, and I was shocked.  Seriously shocked.  Why?  I absolutely, positively loved it.

Let’s get a few things out of the way, first.  One, it’s made for TV.  The effects will not utterly astound you.  However, they were passable for TV, and for the most part I was not at all distracted by the cheesiness of them.  Second, yes, Tim Burton is putting out an adaptation in a few months.  Forget it for now, okay?  They are very, very different as far as I can tell, and this one is still really worth seeing.

This was a different Alice than I was expecting, and one that was grittier and far more sinister.  Rather than a literal adaptation of Carroll’s text, like Tim Burton’s version appears to be, this is a reimagining.  Sticking with the SCI-FI channel, this Alice is to the original text what the new BSG is to the original.  It’s far darker, far more based in a certain sort of reality, and… (okay, here I really want to say “deals with darker themes like drug addiction” or “deals with more adult themes”, but given that there are points where it’s a thinly veiled satire on English politics of the 1800s, well…)  Anyway.

In Alice, the titular heroine (Carerina Scorsone) is a martial arts instructor in her late twenties.  She’s brunette instead of blonde, and actually doesn’t seem to need a man to get by, although she’s got a boyfriend she’s quite fond of.  But when said boyfriend (Philip Winchester) tries to give her a ring and is then abducted, Alice finds herself in Wonderland.  But not the nice, harmless (ish) Wonderland of the books… oh no.  People from Alice’s world, called “oysters” (reference should be clear) are marked, hunted, and then imprisoned in the Heart’s Casino and drained of their emotions.  The emotions are then distilled and sold off as drugs to keep the masses happy, which is how the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) maintains her empire.  Alice attempts to rescue her boyfriend, and along the way she’s helped by Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts) and the White Knight (Matt Frewer).

The story itself was really fascinating.  Sure, I had ideas about where it was going, but I wasn’t completely sure.  For one, the original text itself is kind of odd.  It’s not really a single, coherent story as much as a series of short stories all featuring the same heroine.  Alice never really grows or matures throughout the original novels, and the events don’t necessarily impact each other, which is why it’s so easy to pick and choose the characters featured in an adaptation.  But aside from that, there were new elements added, and a few twists I just did not see coming (in a good way) or was flat-out wrong about.  Plus, some elements from the original story were so changed (my personal favorite being the incredible creepiness that was Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum)….

I have no complaints about the acting, either.  Scorsone did a very nice job, but Andrew Lee Potts as Hatter completely stole the show for me.  At first I did wonder if the role was intended for Mark Badger, but as it went on it was difficult to see anyone else in that role.  I also really enjoyed Colm Meaney as the King of Hearts – I have the feeling he had some fun with the role.  No one’s acting stood out as bad in any way, which was far more than I was expecting.

There was some cheesiness, some elements that you could see coming from a mile away.  There were a few parts I wasn’t crazy about (the White Knight) and a few plot holes you could probably fall into and wind up in another land yourself.  But overall, this was so much better than what I was expecting that I was willing to overlook it.

If you like Wonderland at all, this is well worth checking out.  And if you missed it, don’t fret.  The SCI-FI channel will be replaying it constantly until its next miniseries comes out.

"If I just think hard enough, a brilliantly funny caption will come to me."

Didja Notice?

  • Alice must have watched The DaVinci Code recently.  Sheesh.
  • Agent White’s ponytails.
  • The awful, terrible clubs hats.
  • Cookie jars have many uses
  • The White Knight that says “Ni”?
  • The Queen calls herself “The Most Powerful Woman in the History of Literature.”  Discuss the veracity of this statement.

Groovy Quotes:

Hatter: Does this seem like a kids’ story to you?

If You Liked This Movie, Try:

  • Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
  • Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
  • Nick Willing’s first Alice in Wonderland, the one where Whoopi Goldberg is the Cheshire Cat
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4 Comments

  1. Want to see a really messed up interpretation of Alice in Wonderland? A while back I came across this role-playing game called JAGS Wonderland. Described as surreal horror, it is a total mind screw. The concept of Unsanity is enough to give anyone brain lock-up. As a word of warning, you should not do any logic puzzles like Sudoku immediately after reading it, else you might experience a mental reality disconnect.

  2. Pingback: Eunice does The 10th Kingdom (miniseries) « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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