December 5, 2009 - Advance Review: After a decent re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz, Syfy decided to give another classic tale a revamp. But the resulting product is long-winded, uninspiring, and it hardly does the original material justice.

When we first meet our lead character, Alice, she's teaching a martial arts class, and one of her students is a fellow we soon learn is her boyfriend, Jack. Alice brings her beau to meet her mother, and we find out Alice has been searching for her father who has been missing for ten years, which seems to cause Alice to have some commitment issues with her boyfriends, including Jack. But Jack isn't the normal, loving boyfriend he appears to be. He's in trouble with some mysterious, dangerous people, and Alice gets unwittingly involved. A trip through a dimension-crossing mirror leads her to a strange world called Wonderland, but this ain't the place we've all seen in cartoons in picture books.

The environs of this weird Wonderland are a mix. As far as interiors, there's everything from grungy and industrial basements to retro casino-styled royalty chambers. The outdoor shots include some gorgeous natural landscapes, but for the most part it's unremarkable stuff. The screener version given to the press lacked most of the completed visual effects, so there's not much I can say on that.

When it comes to story and characterization, however, there's lot to say. The story in Alice is very different from the source material. One of the major story points of the original story was all the different things Alice had to consume, especially potions. In this world, the potions are replaced by vials of emotions that are sold like stocks and commodities. Forces from Wonderland basically steal people from our world to suck out their emotions and sell them as drugs, essentially. "Instant gratification" is the idea, and the Queen of Hearts keeps the citizens of Wonderland in line by giving them what they want, when they want it, and keeping the tools of knowledge (like books) away. But this plot element, which might have actually made for an interesting story, kind of takes a back seat in the overall storyline and its potential is never fully realized. It's quite disappointing.

Click above to watch a scene from Alice
Also disappointing is the fact that The Mad Hatter, one of the favorite characters of the original story, isn't really mad at all. He's more of a rogue and master of shady dealings, the Han Solo of this tale. He's not the only character that sees a dramatic revamp in this story. The March Hare, another character from the iconic tea party scene in the original story, is recreated as a cyborg assassin with a rabbit-shaped cookie jar for a head.

Andrew Lee Potts does a fair job as the Hatter, who acts as Alice's guide through the craziness of Wonderland. Caterina Scorsone stars as Alice, and she tries hard, but ultimately fails to bring anything special to the role. There are a number of veteran actors in the cast as well. Kathy Bates stars as the queen, Alessandro Juliani from Battlestar Galactica makes an appearance, as well as Tim Curry (who is sorely underutilized), Colm Meaney, and Matt Frewer (who does a particularly good job as the aged White Knight). It's a well-rounded cast, but besides Frewer, most of their performances are just...adequate.

And that's the problem with this miniseries: it doesn't seem to strive for anything more than mediocrity. There's an inescapable feeling of cheesiness that manifests itself in every aspect of this show. The stilted writing, the questionable and oftentimes lackluster costume choices, the poorly built props—all of it leads to an overall mundane feel for this world, despite the fact that odd things happen in it.

The wonder in this Wonderland is missing. It's a dark, drama-filled tale with a plot that progresses steadily (and slowly, very slowly), but the journey doesn't take us anywhere particularly exciting or memorable. And the ending can be summed up in a single, simple word: stupid.

It's been quite apparent for some time that the folks in Hollywood are out of new ideas and have to rehash the classics, but if you're going to do that, you should at least keep the elements that made the original so great in the first place. While there are certainly a lot of odd moments in this miniseries, they're mostly just cheap tricks. The mind-bending, surreal, scenes of the original story are missing, and the cleverness of Lewis Carroll's text is almost completely absent. Add to that the absence or complete re-invention of some of the most memorable and unique characters in literary history, and you've got a recipe for disaster.




Alice airs Sunday, Dec. 6, and Monday, Dec. 7, in two installments, both airing at 9pm ET/PT, on Syfy.

IGN's Ratings for Alice (2009): Miniseries
Rating Description  
out of 10 click here for ratings guideGet Ratings Information
6.5 OVERALL
(out of 10 / not an average)