on 13 July 2008
Thanks to some excellent performances and wonderful Henson creatures this version of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" truly sparkles in places. The star-heavy cast is rarely a burden, as sometimes happens when signing a big name seems more important than choosing appropriate actors, and there are delightful scenes aplenty, even when the script departs from the original, which it unfortunately does all too often.
Thanks to a peculiar combination of cutting elements of Carroll's story and dialogue and inserting new material too much of this film has a disjointed and chaotic air about it that manages to be merely confusing rather than conveying the madness and dream-like nature of Wonderland. Some of the changes work well enough (the Gryphon becomes considerably more cultured than in the book thanks to a splendid bit of voice work by Donald Sinden, for example) and many of them make little real difference to the story, such as a jury consisting entirely of guinea pigs rather than an assortment of birds and animals. Others are less successful, particularly the beginning and end of the film where a wholly superfluous tale of Alice being afraid to sing in public and Wonderland giving her the confidence to do so has been tacked on, presumably to impart some sort of moral message.
Least satisfying of all is that this isn't actually a film of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" alone but also includes elements of "Through the Looking Glass", spliced rather gracelessly into the story. Two films, one for each book, would have been better, but under the circumstances the scenes with Tweedledum and Tweedledee (nicely played by the heavyweight pairing of George Wendt and Robbie Coltrane) are a much better fit than the encounter with Christopher Lloyd's White Knight.
Children will find some parts of the film baffling but the whole spectacle will pull them along. Adults might be left somewhat bemused by the choices made in this production, but enough of it is excellently done to make one generous towards its faults. The definitive "Alice" has yet to be made, but this is still a very enjoyable film with plenty to delight the viewer.
on 28 December 2006
Firstly, I would have given 5 stars as this adaptation of Alice truly warrants all five, however, there should always be room for improvement and perhaps too I should reserve my 5 stars for an all time favourite, if this in fact will ever exist.
Anyway, enough rambling. When I first saw this film version of Alice in Wonderland some years ago I found it beautiful, dignified even and totally magical for young and old alike. I think I even went as far as writing to the Radio Times praising them (it was probably shown on BBC then)for their choice. The young girl who played Alice was just a delight and yes, I too, like other reviewers here, found I cried at the end both because the film was over and for the touching quality of the song Alice sang to the gathered folk she was so frightened to appear before at the start.
Yes, there are many big names ("stars of the screen") to be found here but that isn't actually what makes the film, or maybe it is the choice of characters they are portraying. Gene Wilder's Mock Turtle for example is just a masterpiece, as is the entire film, ideal to lose yourself in among the stresses of the 21st century.
on 3 August 2006
My, my, my. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite movies are, I always hesitate to make a full list, because it constantly seems to change as I watch and discover new films, but for years now, Alice in Wonderland (1999) has always remained on top as my favorite film of all time. Whatever could be so especial about yet another movie version of the beloved, classic Lewis Carroll masterpiece novel? Well, that can simply be answered by what was a marvelous combination of an all-star cast, a smooth and appealing flow of wonderful storytelling, soft yet intelligent elements of classic humor, charm and amazing visuals and special effects.
This amazingly colorful film is not your classic re-telling of the story, in this film, there's more to the plot than a simple ride through the timeless world of Wonderland, this time around, there are lessons to be learned and a goal to achieve. The story begins when Alice of a high class victorian family struggles when expected to publicly perform the song "Cherry Ripe" in front of odd strangers. Alice decides to run away until everyone is gone and she can safely return to her home, it is then that Alice is surprised by the appearance of a strange looking white rabbit. Like in all other versions of this tale, Alice's cuorisity will not let her sit still, instead she decides to follow the white rabbit into its rabbit hole and what a hole it was! Alice falls and falls in what seems like an endless vertical tunnel until she arrives in the mysterious Wonderland. From this point until the end of the journey, Alice meets all kinds of interesting characters, all of them with the intention to teach Alice to be brave, to face her troubles and that performing is something to have fun doing, not dread.
One of the most amazing thing about this film is the fact that every character is played by an amazing actor or actress, there are no dull performances therefore no dull characters. Every one here is a filled with personality and humor and I can guarrantee none of them is bound to let their screentime go to waste or go by as unmemorable. The young Tina Majorino (Waterworld, 1995) may not have had many screen appearances prior to this one, but she sure didn't let anyone down, she's simply perfect as Alice and I couldn't have thought of anyone capable of taking her place and leaving the film as great as it was. Sure, you may argue with me and say that Alice's character is unlikeable and cold, but you put yourself in her shoes, anyone would be sure to be this way if surrounded by so much rudeness and insanity. I can't think of any version of this tale that did not feature a somewhat short-tempered Alice. Moving on, Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow, 1999) sure was memorable as the whiny and screechy Queen of Hearts and has surely outshined any other Queen prior or after her. Ben Kingsley (Schindler's List, 1993) plays the role of the wise caterpiller in what was one of the most visually pleasant scenes in the entire film. Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, 1990), well her face was added onto the odd Cheshire Cat and allowed some of the best comic relief available, Martin Short (Mars Attacks!, 1996) is splendid as the Mad Hatter and George Wendt and Robbie Coltrane are perfect as the Tweedledee and Tweedledum duo. A wonderful musical performance is given by Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle and Peter Ustinov's voice and fantastic acting talent were given to the character of the Walrus. Other vivid performances were given by Christopher Lloyd as the White Knight, Ken Dodd as Mr. Mouse, Simon Russell Beale as the King of Hearts, Elizabeth Spriggs as the Dutchess and Pete Postlethwaite as the Carpenter.
Alice in Wonderland (1999) is so visually wonderful it is hard to believe the producers aimed as a television production rather than a full-blown theatrical musical. Still, for a TV movie, Alice in Wonderland, in my opinion, surpasses all standards. The film is filled with glorious colors, breathtaking and realistic indoor/outdoor sets and state-of-the art special effects. The film is amazingly detailed with many out-of-center gags and many different things a viewer will miss if the film is only viewed once. The only thing that concerned me was the white rabbit, he was such an obvious animatronic I wasn't sure if it had been purposely made this way for appeal or was just unintentional. Other than that, each of the scenes and sceneries did not stop amazing me after two hours of splendid viewing.
Hallmark's Alice in Wonderland is such a long movie, you can't help but feel a little sad when the whole thing is over, that's why this is the only version of Alice that has ever had me almost crying by the time the end was reached. The scene in which the giant apple falls on the King's trial court and everything collapses leading Alice to waking up always gets me teary eyed and is probably my favorite scene in the entire film. I was indeed sad when the film reached its finale because I had grown so fond of all of the characters for as I said before, not one of them felt flat or unappealing. Something important I forgot to mention was the lovely soundtrack by Richard Hartley which deliciously caresses each one of the many different scenes. The soundtrack alone was another winner on its own.
It is sad that so many people have thought of this film as atrocious, perhaps many of them failed to find its true heart and beauty. I myself cannot see a moment in which Alice in Wonderland (1999) will ever stop being my favorite film of all time. For no other film has ever given me such a sense of imagination and peace. Films like this are no longer appreciated or even made nowadays which is a true shame. I'll recommend this film to anyone who is willing to see a beautiful version of this beloved classic. Possibly, the greatest adaptation to have ever been produced. Ten out of ten stars.
on 20 April 2014
Throughout the years many versions of Lewis Carroll’s classic masterwork have been transcribed to film but pretty much all of the adaptations seriously fall short of what the allegories in the story are all about – be it Alice floundering helplessly as she floats down the one-way rabbit hole of life; her being ensnared in a bland clinical environment and trying doors to escape – only to discover that the paths that she (as a female) wishes to take are sealed by locked doors that bar her from entry; drowning in her own sorrows as she shrinks within herself but having the fortitude to swim out of the mess she finds herself in – only to be confronted by a bunch of sly deceitful confidence tricksters who trick Alice out of her wealth (her sweeties) before she meets a bombastic rabbit who is always in a rush and flurry and has Alice at his beck and call (fetch me my gloves Alice) until she reaches a state when she finds the walls of his house are closing in all around her while the rabbit throws rocks at Alice and orders others to go in and sort it out.
On the way we meet the wise caterpillar who instructs Alice to be more alert to what is going on around her, and the fish footman who advises Alice to ‘look before you leap’ (Alice: ‘How do I get into the house?’ Footman: ‘The question you should be asking is why do you want to go in there in the first place’) when Alice wishes to enter the house of a Duchess to seek directions – only to discover it is a hovel filled with people on drugs (the pepper) having a horrendous argument over trivia whilst trashing everything that is useful (the crockery) and abusing the child who must be ‘beaten when he sneezes because he only does it to annoy’ (Jim Henderson, the creator of ‘The Muppets’ does the pig muppet).
As a terrified Alice dashes out of the hovel with the baby in an attempt to rescue it to prevent the baby from further harm, the baby transforms into a pig and Alice then meets the wise old Cheshire Cat (beautifully portrayed by Whoopie Goldberg) who enquires: ‘What happened to the baby?’ Alice informs the cat that ‘the baby turned into a pig’ and the cat replies ‘I THOUGHT it might’ – informing us that the baby grew up to be a pig because of NEGLECFUL NURTURING.
When Alice asks the cat for directions, the Cheshire cat asks Alice which direction she wishes to go. When Alice says that she isn’t really bothered the cat replies: ‘Then it doesn’t matter which direction you take’ – informing Alice that SHE has choices in life – and not to aimlessly go through life without any goal or purpose because one will end up floundering and in a mess (called ‘blocking your own road’).
On the way Alice enters the Gentleman’s club where she encounters the mad hatter seriously bullying the dormouse, and the March hare always siding with hatter – where in their cruel attempt to be rid of Alice because women are not welcome by asking her riddles that do not have an answer to make Alice feel foolish (Why is a raven like a writing desk?), Alice learns about how people can twist things around to bring things to their own advantage.
And so the film goes on – accurately depicting each and every lesson that Lewis Carroll has masterfully hidden in his masterwork for the astute child (adult?) to see and learn from for themselves.
The film has a stellar cast (including Ken Dodd) who unfold the curious adventure and deliver messages hidden in plain sight in a fabulously delightful way that makes the film compelling viewing over and over again – always supplemented with LOTS of discussions with children and adults – both during and afterwards - on what is REALLY taking place and what lessons are to be learned from Alice’s adventure in ‘Wonderland’.
Be warned! Once you watch the film you will find the contents to be curiouser and curiouser – and you will be tempted to watch it again and again.
There isn’t a better version of this wonderful story - a story filled with all of the many lessons of life we wish we could have learnt when we were young.
Well now you and your children CAN! And some!