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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Alice discovers new wonder(land)

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."  ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

     SyFy has done for Wonderland what it did in 2007 for Oz.  This past Sunday and Monday, Alice aired.  It was clever, witty, and wholly original.  With heavy references to both Alice novels by Lewis Carroll, it also took place in a universe where the events of the books had happened over one hundred and forty years ago.  Presumably the heroine in this adventure is also coincidentally named Alice, and the denizens of the strange country don't age very much.  This new four hour miniseries was set present day in the human world, but appeared a cross between future and fantasy in Wonderland.  It was just as trippy as the book, especially the scenes with Drs. Dee and Dum (Eugene Lipinski).  In this version, the cards also inhabit a casino (apropos, no?) where the Carpenter (Timothy Webber, Men in Trees, why doesn't this man have his own Wikipedia entry?) harvests their emotions.  But he has a very surprisingly secret, revealed around the third hour.

     The cast is led by the beautiful Caterina Scorsone, playing Alice with Kung Fu action.  This Alice has fallen in love with Jack (Philip Winchester), who is mysteriously kidnapped by 'suits' from the White Rabbit company.  On a side note, Winchester did a brilliant job, having wonderful chemistry with Scorsone in the beginning, and none at all when they meet again on the other side, important to the story arc.  Predictably, Alice follows the kidnappers and falls through a mirror.  Alice begins her search for Jack, soon assisted by Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts), owner of a teashop, playing every angle.  Jack introduces her to the resistance, who wants to overthrow the wicked Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates).  The group is led by Dodo (Tim Curry in a scene stealing, but very short, performance).  Unfortunately, Hatter is loyal to neither the resistance or the royalty, which causes no end of trouble and confusion for Alice, but also sets them up for a nice romance.

     The special effects are magical, and the Wonderland realm does seem otherworldly, helped along by a fantastic cast of supporting characters.  Besides the actors mentioned above, Matt Frewer as a Monty Python-inspired White Knight stands out, as does Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9) as the King of Hearts, Geoff Redknap as assassin March Hare, and Harry Dean Stanton as Caterpillar.

     If you are looking for a new adaptation of the classic story, wait for Tim Burton's movie next year.  If you want something wholly new, clever, unexpectedly twisty, and just plain fun, check out Alice, which will next re-air this Sunday at 5pm in its entirety.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

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