8/22/16

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1999) - REVIEW


Several years before Tim Burton rebooted Lewis Carroll's surreal masterpiece with all the 3D bells and whistles, we got this Alice In Wonderland TV movie in 1999 as an all-star cast took on the classic story.

There was something irresistible about this interpretation of Alice In Wonderland as, not only would it be packed with great actors in familiar roles but it was the perfect opportunity to explore parts of the tale the older versions never explored and show off some creative new visuals. The film starts very differently from the book, which is a little off-putting at first, but soon enough Alice goes to Wonderland and the story finally begins in a faithful way with some added moments from "Through The Looking Glass" thrown in. The first thing you'll notice is Tina Majorina (known for Napoleon Dynamite and Veronica Mars) feels somewhat miscast as Alice: her performance is much too awkward, her English accent isn't convincing and that yellow dress she's made to wear just doesn't look right.

Luckily, some of the other characters do work as Martin Short provides us with the best live-action Mad Hatter to date with that inflated head of his and Gene Wilder makes something of a mini-comeback as the Mock Turtle. A lot of the rest, however, either don't really stand out or overstay their welcome. This TV movie is edited and paced in such a way that each weird Wonderland character is given a full segment in between commercial breaks which means that most scenes go on for far too long so when you're having to spend five straight minutes with a character that's not fun, it feels like 45 minutes. Miranda Richardson's Queen Of Hearts, for example, is unbearable with her whiny voice and incessant screaming and Christopher Lloyd's White Knight scene could have easily be cut in half (or altogether), same goes for Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Robbie Coltrane and George Wendt).

As for Whoopi Goldberg's Cheshire Cat, that's just a creepy sight.

The visuals are probably the film's biggest strength as you can tell some effort was put into making Wonderland look as strange as possible. From the Mad Hatter's head to the giant settings and the larger-than-life puppets (courtesy of Jim Henson's Creature Shop), there's always something interesting to check out. Unfortunately the script is just not funny or sharp enough to make the film consistently entertaining throughout, the framing device feels tacked on and so many scenes drag making you wish for a Director's Cut version of the film.

While not the worst Alice In Wonderland adaptation out there as it has its moments, I'd probably skip this one and aim for the 1972 live-action film Alice's Adventures In Wonderland instead. If you're curious about the cast involved, maybe give it one watch, but don't expect to be swept away.

Uneven, if colourful mess.

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