“Alice” (SciFi mini-series)

Alice (wiki) is a three-hour mini-series produced in 2009 by SciFi Channel (now stylized “SyFy“—because that makes it so much cooler looking; ugh). It follows a young woman in her twenties, Alice (Caterina Scorsone), who falls in love with a man named Jack and—when she sees him being kidnapped—follows him and his captors into Wonderland, intent on breaking him out. She’s introduced to Hatter and the White Knight, and, of course, hi-jinks ensue.

I really liked Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts)… as did many other people, it turns out. When I was looking for images for this review, I noticed that—in the first two lines (totaling 10 images) in my Google images search—4 of the images are of Hatter only, and all but one of the remaining ones included him. (The sole image without him in it is just a photo of Alice peeking over the edge of a hole, which never actually happens in the mini-series.) Still, as I am wont to be, I was suspicious of Hatter at first. Just helping Alice out of the goodness of his heart? That might fly with someone who has a history of helping people down on their luck, but Hatter himself admitted that he’d played both sides of the conflict all his life. Not exactly the most trustworthy person in the world. (To her credit, Alice herself is suspicious of him, too, and doesn’t trust him until almost the very end of the mini-series.) It’s clear his loyalties are torn, but he proves himself over and over and eventually she (and I) trusts him. I almost felt bad for Alice’s mother at the end—SPOILERS—but the look on her face when Alice saw him, called him “Hatter!”, and rushed into his arms was just too priceless. I really like Johnny Depp, but I would take this Hatter over his any day of the week.

The White Knight (Matt Frewer) is another really great character, and the actor seemed to have a lot of fun with it. He (the character) is kooky and everyone (most notably Hatter) except Alice writes him off the moment they see him, but by the end of the mini-series, it’s clear that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s a coward who loves his friends more than he fears his enemies—the best kind of friend to have.

Alice SciFi mini-series
The White Knight, Alice, and Hatter from Alice

The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates, bless her heart… er, no pun intended) is appropriately demanding, but she was much more level-headed and conniving than I would have made her. Said calm and calculating demeanor (though she does flippantly say, “Off with his head!” once or twice) suggests her character is a combination of the original stories’ Queen of Hearts and Red Queen, which is seriously frustrating. Just once, I would like to see a decent representation of the Red Queen without having her subsumed into the Queen of Hearts. I mean, really.

As for the rest of the cast: damn, was it star-studded (or maybe I’ve just been paying closer attention to actors generally speaking recently). Visser Three played “Dr. Dee”/”Dr. Dum” (guess who they are), Lieutenant Gaeta was the Nine of Clubs, Chief O’Brien played the King of Hearts, Roman Grant was the Caterpillar, Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself was Dodo, and there were a bunch of others I recognized (The White Knight, Jack of Hearts, and the Carpenter, for example) but couldn’t immediately place. I know none of these actors (possibly with the exception of Tim Curry) are seriously big-time actors, but… I’m now old enough to have seen (and remember!) things they’ve been in already. /cry

The story itself was an interesting re-imagining of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and it utilized many of the minor characters better than I’ve seen in any other version. (Even the Red King had a part, though he acted mostly as a prop for the White Knight’s back story.) The Queen of Hearts running a casino seems like it could be obvious, but it wasn’t overplayed and there was enough action elsewhere that it didn’t seem heavy-handed. It seemed like Jack of Hearts got the short end of the stick, but he didn’t seem too torn up about Alice turning down his proposal, so I don’t feel bad not feeling torn up, either. (And, after all, he did have the Duchess.) The romance between Alice and Hatter could’ve been really irritating, but by the end I was totally rooting for it—it didn’t feel forced or overplayed, either, thank heavens. Generally speaking, I think Alice is one of the better versions of Lewis Carroll’s classics that I’ve seen. I’d totally watch it again.

And also, happily, it passed the Bechdel Test since the Queen of Hearts and Alice (two female characters) have an entire conversation (talk to each other) about the Stone of Wonderland (something other than a man). And, I’m pleased to say, the conversation goes on for more than a couple of lines back and forth between characters, too (though Alice does irritatingly keep bringing up Jack, which may make the pass a little dubious).

EDIT 29 June 2011 @ 00:44 PDT—It occurred to me after I’d turned off my computer after posting this review when I was heading for bed that I may also like the Alice/Hatter relationship better than the Alice/Jack relationship because, in the latter, Jack asked Alice to stay in Wonderland with him (forcing her, hypothetically, to give up her life in her world) while, in the former, Hatter gave up everything he knew to follow Alice into her world to be with her. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

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