Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Many Iterations of Malice in Wonderland: A Movie Review

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Director: Simon Fellows.

Writer: Jayson Rothwell.

Cast: Maggie Grace, Danny Dyer and Matt King.

Interestingly, Malice in Wonderland has seen several incarnations throughout the years. In ’82, it was a short film and in ’85, it was a television series. And the musical version, featuring Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx, may not be for everyone.

To those people who can “dig it,” you will certainly love Gary Beadle ("EastEnders") who plays a very hip Felix Chester. Although his role is a very small one, his appearance is what defines this film. His charisma and charm is perfect for the role he’s placed in.

The story looks at the life of an American lost in the boroughs of London. Alice (Maggie Grace) is on the run. She’s introduced to viewers as a woman fleeing from someone in London’s subway system. After leaving one hole, she enters another — and she has a run in with Whitey (Danny Dyer), a tardy taxi cab driver. But their encounter is not a good one; he almost ploughs into her with his vehicle and that results in Alice forgetting who she is. Although Whitey tries to take her home, what they go through instead, together, is an esoteric look at London’s strange nightlife. It is filled with vagabonds, hustlers, and lowlifes who look like they perfectly belong in a Terry Gilliam film.

The colourful characters that Alice encounters are far more interesting than the actual plot of her trying to piece together her life, and remembering who she is. When she is repeatedly drugged, that will not happen anytime soon. Instead, those sequences get wonderfully illustrated with twisted cinematography and colourful set designs that nearly mirror moments from Lewis Carroll's work.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee (both played by Christian Patterson) are naturally reinterpreted as Dean and Dom, two bouncers of a nightclub when Alice tries to get more answers. She never really does for most of the film, but the game she plays with the Mad Hatter and the Queen certainly does give this tale a familiar flow.

Fortunately, the screenplay is not a direct rip-off of Carroll’s tale. The last act is totally out of left field. That may seem abrupt, but it works. The movie does explain its mysterious introduction. And in what Alice learns about her life finally comes full circle.

In an odd way, this fantasy thriller is more than just a retelling of a fairy tale classic. There are elements of exploring family connections and reconnecting with lost dreams. And for those expecting an ending similar to Carroll's work, no one loses their head in this film. And nor do they wake up to a "oh, it's just a dream" moment. Instead, it just has to be seen to be believed. Not even the original author planned on one particular relationship to happen.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

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