Independent, but with some bottled up trust issues, Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is an expert black belt and part-time instructor. Since her father walked out on her and her mother ten years ago, Alice was left with feelings of inadequacy, and that has transferred to her relationships with guys. This time though, she is crazy about her boyfriend Jack (Philip Winchester). They are taking another step in their relationship and Alice has invited him home to meet her mother, but when Jack proposes marriage, Alice does what she does best – she panics and sends Jack out the door. Noticing he slipped the ring in her pocket, she dashes out after him and witnesses men forcing him into a truck. Trying to stop them, she instead follows the mysterious man claiming to be helping Jack… and instead she falls right into a strange world that everyone calls Wonderland…
Deciding she won’t be leaving without Jack, Alice’s life becomes an odd series of events when she is captured, lured into a small square box that imprisons her and hauled away by something resembling a flying contraption. As a result of her resourceful escape, she is introduced to Hatter (Andrew Lee-Potts) who promises to help her in her quest to find Jack, but they’ve barely started the search when Alice realizes that everyone is much too interested in the ring Jack presented her with… including Hatter and the evil diabolical Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates).
Fantasy network SyFy created a very unique look of a storybook that had the potential to become the “same-old, same-old” mantra, but instead of falling into that trap, they upped expectations, setting it in modern times with a “scattered” production design and twists that give the production some touches of an “old world” era. An example is a Wall Street-like trading room which was created with traders costumes that are more from the 1900’s whereas the rest of the film dresses its characters in more modern attire. Everything at the palace is terrifically reminiscent of the iconic playing cards – and really modern, making that setting and costuming full of whimsy and something costumers could have fun with, and it was interesting to see the queen’s home converted into a casino. Seeing Alice in one costume the entire time grew a little tedious, mainly because the dress wasn’t all that attractive. Creator’s ideas were to explore the world of Wonderland one-hundred plus years after it first appeared and that idea pays off. Instead of trading stocks, residents’ trade emotions, having been driven into such despair by poor leadership, they are now unable to feel anything. Some may find this theme a little bothersome since the villains capture people from the real world in order to suction all their emotions, bottle them and sell them to the highest bidder. Never are the captives mistreated in terms of being physically tortured or of the gruesome kind (instead they are kept all day long in the casino room, alert but sedated while the tiled floor absorbs their emotions with a lab lying in wait underneath).
Mostly the film is just really clever. Granted it is really wacky, but otherwise, things are decently harmless with exception to the whole idea behind the story. Following closely on the heels of this miniseries was Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. For a heroine, this Alice is… interesting, but also a stronger lead. Caterina plays Alice in this adaptation and hers is a much more interpretive portrayal than that of Mia Wasikowska. What both female protagonists may bring to mind are hints of feminism; one in a world dominated by men, the other by her fearless personality. I won’t lie. I like characters – male or female – to be strong leads. A lady doesn’t need to be so independent that her attitude towards life pushes everyone away, but I do not mind if she is confident enough to know her own strengths – and weaknesses. Alice was flawed as any human being but her weaknesses made her stronger. (Burton’s Alice lived in a time when feminism was just gaining popularity and eventually that was what her choices were implying.) Seeing an Alice who wasn’t as confused was an interesting switch-up – her one stumbling block, a lack of trust -- and something that seemed to work for the wackiness of the whole production. Her distrust encompassed the small things in life as well as the bigger things. At first, Alice doesn’t believe in people – Jack, Hatter – then, we learn that she has grave fears about heights. All of which was fostered by a feeling of abandonment; feelings of inadequacy. The ways that filmmakers put viewers in mind of the classic tale was adorable while adding their own unique spin, and taking their production and interpretations of it in completely different directions. Both of the adaptations or re-telling gave Alice a fabulous support group, mainly in their respective Hatters; both of who are memorable for different reasons.
How all the characters interacted with their storybook counterpart was ingenious. Even to someone who is not religiously knowledgeable about the original concepts, I can see the parallels. And not just in the characters, all of the wonderful additions pay homage to Carroll’s work and that is something to applaud. This was an achievement that the entire cast and crew should be proud of. The results are comical, touching and reminiscent of the “true” Alice. Even in its whimsical, wackiness, I loved it!
(A couple of sexual insinuations may pepper the script. Da*n and h*ll are used. There is an “epic” battle nearer the end… with a bunch of corpses. Shots are fired at various people at various points in the movie. Two men get inside Alice’s head, trying to gain information and later torture a man. Plus an assassin is kind of weird having lost his head; scientists have to use a ceramic bunny “head” as a quick fix.)