Alice in Wonderland, 1999, NBC ****/****
Starring Tina Majorino
Imagine stepping into the shoes of the legendary Alice in Wonderland. The places you'd go and the people you'd meet would be overwhelming, but you never really could experience her magical journeys. Or could you? Now imagine the team that created Gulliver's Travels, The Odyssey, and Merlin. Guess what? They're responsible for this three-hour event movie as well. And now, thanks to them, the idea that you can only seem to imagine can almost seem authentic as Lewis Carroll's fantasy spills out before your eyes in vibrant color and spectacular acting. Let's just say that this isn't your regular TV-movie. But what were you expecting?
A Definitive Alice
I'll get back into the praise mood later on. This film (which clocks in at two hours, nine minutes and was originally three hours with commercials) delicately combines the full story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with four scenes from the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. While throwing in a few clever ideas of its own, a new frame story fits around the edges quite nicely, although eliminating Alice's sister completely. Alice is afraid to perform "Cherry Ripe" in front of her parents' tea-party guests, and there is no backing up from her position, as her governess and mother are insistent. We the audience notice that the guests will become characters in Alice's dream later on. She runs into the woods and hides under an apple tree, deciding to "go back later when it's all over." Alice's eyes become heavy as she looks up into the vast sky.
Suddenly an apple falls from the tree, slowly, and stops midway in the air. A White Rabbit distracts Alice and she follows him into as tree and down a hole, and her adventure begins. She finds herself in a rotunda with doors lined all around. Behind a curtain is a garden, and first she's too small, then too tall, and her arms become stuck in the vault. The White Rabbit attempts to help, but Alice's giant tears flood the room and he escapes, quite frightened, leaving his gloves and fan behind. Alice becomes quite surprised when they appear in her hands. They cause her to shrink back down and soon she is swimming in her tears.
And so here is where the real fun starts. After a caucus race with several odd characters, Alice is chased down by a large puppy and argues with the unpleasant Major Caterpillar. She rescues a baby from the Duchess's house, only to have it turn into a pig. After an encounter with the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party, she walks through a door built into a tree where she finds herself in that hall again. She is just tall enough to reach up and take the little garden door's key from the table. The passes through the door, which is a looking glass, and finds herself playing croquet with the Queen of Hearts. Then, after more encounters, now with the Mock Turtle (delightful scene) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the White Knight, appears in the court of the King of Hearts. After finally deciding she is confident after proving there is no real crime, the apple falls, and the house of cards in which the trial is being held collapses. Alice finds herself back under the apple tree as the apple lands, waking her. She delivers an "enchanting" performance, as said by the Society Man, not of "Cherry Ripe," but "Will You Won't You Join the Dance."
In Review After watching it, I was left with a happy feeling. This was one of those rare television movies that come out great. An amazing 875 special effects hold together great acting and a more-faithful storyline of Carroll's original nonsense, keeping in many of his lyrics, now accompanied by music. Several puns and more-advanced jokes are kept in as well. The sets and costumes are also a marvel in this film. The frame story also is a fine addition; after all, many characters in Lewis Carroll's original stories were based on people he and Alice Liddell, the real Alice, knew. One thing, however-many young children will do much better off with seeing the Walt Disney animated film, which moves at a much quicker pace than both the book and this. They may also not understand much of the dialogue included. However, I've also heard that kids love it. I'll let you be the judge.
And So, In Conclusion What a scarce and so uncommon of a treat. I'm going to have to safely say that this should win the Emmy for best telemovie of the television season. This one movie caused me to pick up a copy of the books from a local Border's and read them all over again. Four out of four stars definitely, or a 9.5 out of 10. It's almost that perfect. I'm expecting many Emmy nominations for the flick. The film is available on video (in three covers; clamshell, a slipsleeve with the same design as the clamshell, and a more rare black slipsleeve with a different design and inscription on the back) and DVD for prices around $20, but can be found around many places discounted. Amazon.com also offers them. Also released was an audiocassette version of the book with movie design, a book with photos from the movie, and a soundtrack.
Back to Main