I know that in my columns I have talked about adaptations, reboots, re-imaginings and remakes in both television and cinema. And I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted on the subject of Hollywood’s obsession with giving a new face to an old piece of work once or twice. While most of the time the redo’s are okay (and sometimes really bad) every once in a while there are those that absolutely blow my mind with their ingenious and creativity. Such a gem I have found in SyFy‘s “Alice.”
This mini-series originally aired about three years ago, and like Tim Burton‘s “Alice in Wonderland,” isn’t so much a re-telling of the story as it is a continuation or a sequel and also takes elements from “Through the Looking Glass.” It follows Alice (who you aren’t quit sure if it is “the” Alice or not) a twenty-something who, thanks to the desertion of her father when she was 10, has a lot of issues. These issues come to light when her boyfriend Jack proposes to her under mysterious circumstances. When she kicks him out and then follows him to return the ring he left, she follows him straight into Wonderland, but a Wonderland that has changed from when the first Alice came over 150 years ago and not everything is as it seems.
Nick Willing (who also breathed new and strange life into “The Wizard of Oz” for SyFy with “Tin Man”) brings us a Wonderland that is darker, more dangerous, more adult and ruled by the Red Queen (Kathy Bates) who has her Suits steal people from our world and bring them to the Hearts Casino where they, called Oysters in Wonderland, are drained of their emotions so the inhabitants of Wonderland can consume them. Bates plays the queen as only she can, with a careful balance of maliciousness and comedy. This isn’t Willing’s first time in Wonderland, he made the 1999 made-for-TV-movie “Alice in Wonderland” starring Robbie Coltrane, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lloyd, Gene Wilder and Tina Majorino. I remember watching the movie and being very confused and weirded out most of the time. I might go back and watch it again, just to compare it with Willing’s new adventure, but I have a feeling the SyFy one will win out.
To be honest, the first twenty minutes of the move made my head hurt, and it wasn’t until we met the Hatter (perfectly portrayed by “Primeval” star Andrew Lee Potts) and he explains to Alice (Caterina Scorsone) and the audience what is going on that I started to enjoy the show. What I like about Potts’ Hatter, along with his very sixties wardrobe, is that he isn’t actually mad at all. He’s a criminal who, until Alice comes along, played “both sides of the fence” to survive. His instant chemistry with ‘s Alice is electric and you enjoy every scene they have together.While the movie itself is one of the most original adaptations I have seen in a while, the DVD itself is lacking in all the extra goodies I tend to seek out first when purchasing a new movie. The only thing I found was an audio commentary with Willing and Scorsone, and while those are my favorite behind-the-scenes extras, it would have been nice to see some featurettes or documentaries, as the “Tin Man” DVD are chock full of them.
Even if you are sick of the “Alice” remakes, I highly suggest you take one more trip down the rabbit hole with this miniseries. You won’t be disappointed.