Lionsgate // 2009 // 184 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 2nd, 2010
"Do I need a reason to help a pretty girl in a very wet dress? Oh, I see. You don't trust me. Fine! I am genuinely hurt!" -- Hatter
Long on style and short on plot, this SyFy original mini-series reimagines Alice in Wonderland as a grunge inspired overcrowded city out to suck all the emotions from humans. It's an attempt to take the literary classic, update it, and run amuck with the CGI effects and environments. Sometimes it works well, other times it seems like it is trying a bit too hard to be interesting. Yet, if you fancy the idea of a cyberpunk Alice in Wonderland, this one gives you enough to chew on for a few hours and say "Curiouser and curiouser" by the end.
Our decidedly different Alice (Caterina Scorsone, Edge of Darkness) is a brunette fully grown woman with a black belt and an unlucky streak when it comes to love. The romantic curse may have finally been lifted as her mysterious English-accented boyfriend Jack (Philip Winchester Thunderbirds) offers her a ring. Yet for some reason right after he does this he is snatched into a white van, and Alice chases one of his captors right through a mirror. She enters Wonderland which is not the pastoral vision of gardens from the original tale, but rather a dystopian cityscape full of familiar yet somehow different characters. It's a cross between fairy tale and Blade Runner, a punky new vision of Wonderland as overcrowded urban nightmare. The new world runs on the energy of kidnapped humans who are put in a casino and harvested for their emotions by the evil Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates, Misery).
As with most productions of Alice in Wonderland, the fun part is playing "spot the celebrity" in the character roles that we all know and love. Along the way this Alice runs into Andrew Lee Potts (the BBC's Primeval) as a "tea" pushing Hatter, Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) as the White Knight, Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a black leather clad Dodo, Harry Dean Stanton (Inland Empire) smoking as the caterpillar, and Colm Meaney (the BBC's Life on Mars) as the King of Hearts. The performances are fine across the board, you just wish they would have more fun with it all.
What is frustrating is that this SyFy series original takes the whimsical source material and attempts to put a serious spin on it. I'm not sure why they felt the need to impose order on the chaos, other than it probably made sense to fit in with their other property Tin Man. But Wonderland was never a place that should make sense, and it seems too convenient to slap on a sci-fi plot that is all too similar to The City of Lost Children.
Another factor here is the series feels a little sterile, and looks like a cable channel production. If you remember this channel's version of Dune you know what I am talking about, the design is always too clean. The end product looks fine, but you long for a little more imagination in the world.
Another area that lacks on the Blu-Ray is the presentation. There are no extras to explain this new vision, no behind the scenes looks at the production, and no commentaries. It's bare bones featuring only the two installments and not anything else. Harumph!
Even though the Blu-Ray is bare bones, it does have a nice transfer that looks as good as it did on HD broadcast. It's a full 1080P high definition widescreen picture that holds color and patterns very well. Sound design is a full surround five channel mix that does well with atmospherics when Wonderland gets going. There are some nice directional effects.
Alice's Wonderland definitely fits more into the sci-fi genre, and the characters are reinvented to suit their new environment. I enjoyed seeing this new vision, and it was a nice change from the usual treatment for the Lewis Carroll classic. My only gripes are, it looks small scale thanks to the cable production values, and they do seem to take the story far too seriously for it to feel as playful as it could. On Blu-Ray you can enjoy the vibrant picture, but there are no extras to explore. All in all, it's worth it to see the celebrity cameos, but I wish it had more to offer. The best way to enjoy this one is to sit back and watch the parade of celebrities, and check out all the new cityscapes for Wonderland. The style is awesome, I just wish they had a little more to support it.
Guilty of trying to inflict order on chaos, this Alice is a bit too stoic to make us believe she's in Wonderland.
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 184 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated