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August 31, 2015

Syfy's Alice -- An early look

by Mike Moody, posted Dec 4th 2009 5:02PM
syfy alice
It's hard for me to get excited about something like Alice, Syfy's twisted new take on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. NBC and Syfy seemingly produce these modern versions of classic tales for the same reason Hollywood studios push out stale remakes and sequels – because they already have a built in audience. And the producers don't have to worry about coming up with an original story. All they have to do is force some contempo quirkiness into the age-old text and be done with it. (Make the flamingos flying machines! Turn the caterpillar into a hookah-smoking Harry Dean Stanton!)

Similar to Syfy's Tin Man, its dark and tedious Wizard of Oz redo, Alice offers a bizarre retread of its classic source material. But writer-director Nick Willing (the brains behind Tin Man) smartly sets his tale in a futuristic version of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. And he's created a brand new Alice too. She's a tough twentysomething brunette who teaches martial arts and high-kicks bad guys in the face.

Alice (Caterina Scorsone) follows her kidnapped boyfriend through the looking glass and ends up in a dystopian fantasy world -- Wonderland, 150 hard years after the original Alice's trip down the rabbit hole. The place is ruled by the wicked Queen of Hearts (an over-the-top Kathy Bates) who dopes her subjects with liquid emotions drained from kidnapped humans. After a quick tour of Wonderland's fantastic horrors, Alice meets the crafty young Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts), and they set off on a mildly amusing quest to find her boyfriend and topple the Queen's rule.

The lead performers are Alice's greatest assets. Scorsone is confident and rarely boring, and Potts steals the show as the scruffy and charming Hatter (which means I'll now have to start watching his BBC series, Primeval.) The supporting cast offers a few pleasant surprises – like a spry Tim Curry as Dodo and Matt Frewer as the goofy White Knight – but talented actors like Colm Meaney and Battlestar Galactica's Alessandro Juliani are wasted in small thankless roles.

Alice offers some fun trippy moments and a clever take on Wonderland (I can't comment on the final visual effects, since our screener was a rough cut), but it never really takes off or comes close to capturing the imagination. (Its four-hour running time might be partly to blame.) Some clumsy "message" moments, a simplistic chase movie plot, and a predictable sentimental ending snuff out what little spark this thing has going for it.

Alice premieres December 6 at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.

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"And the producers don't have to worry about coming up with an original story." - as far as I can tell there hasn't been an original story in over 2,000 years . . .

December 07 2009 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm rarely ever into re-makes. Especially on syfy. The best thing about them are the cameos.

December 05 2009 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian - Kafkacotton

I run a t-shirt shop, www.kafkacotton.com, that creates designs inspired by great books. We just came out with an "Alice in Wonderland" t-shirt last week (actually "Through the Looking Glass"). When we decided to make the shirt, we had no idea all these Alices were about to pop out...

Here's the quote from the book which explains the shirt, "One thing was certain, that the WHITE kitten had had nothing to do with it:-it was the black kitten's fault entirely."

December 05 2009 at 3:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You hinted, with the hooka, that you might have already seen it (but if you did, you'd have said so, I think), but I'd recommend highly "PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND". It sparingly uses themes from the book, about a very serious subject. The movie is just incredible (I'd expect no less from a Fanning).


December 04 2009 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MCW's comment

"I can't comment on the final visual effects, since our screener was a rough cut"

Yeah... he didn't say anything about seeing it at all.......

December 04 2009 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Mike, I think MCW is talking about "PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND" not 'Alice'. And no, I haven't seen 'Phoebe' but it looks cool.

December 04 2009 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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