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DVD Review

DVD cover

Alice in Wonderland (1999)


Starring: Tina Majorino, Miranda Richardson, Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Russell Beale, Robbie Coltrane, Ken Dodd, Gene Wilder, George Wendt, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Ustinov, Ben Kingsley, Elizabeth Spriggs and Pete Postlethwaite
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: U
Release Date: 27 July 2015

To escape the humiliation from a sudden case of stage fright in front of her parents and their guests, young Alice walks out of her home, steps into a rabbit hole and enters an incredible, magical world of adventure. She encounters a multitude of creatures and characters, including the delightful Cheshire Cat, the rotund Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, and a very rude Caterpillar. With the sip of a magic potion, Alice shrinks to ten inches in height so she can get through an inviting rat hole, where tiny people are having a tea party. She then grows taller and taller by eating a piece of cake, only to shrink once again, ending up in a large pool of her own tears. Through a concoction of mystery drinks, special cakes and magical mushrooms, Alice continually changes form and fantasy, travelling throughout Wonderland before ending up as a witness in the croquet court...

I have to admit I've never been a huge fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, nor its countless movie adaptations. This made for TV movie, however, really shakes things up a lot.

In the past I've started watching Wonderland movies and always become bored way before the end. However Nick Willing's adaptation, based on a screenplay by Peter Barnes, holds your attention throughout. The movie is broken down into what basically amounts to a number of short scenes. As Alice travels through Wonderland she meets various characters and then moves on to another scene before you have time to get bored.

It's as weird and trippy as you'd expect (especially the Mad Hatter's Tea Party segment - which sees Martin Short with a disproportionately sized head), and there are quite a few songs.

The one scene that could have become dull and boring is the Mock Turtle scene, but Gene Wilder manages to hold your attention with his usual larger than life screen presence.

The movie has an interesting opening sequence, which rewards those who go back for another viewing. As the camera pans around Alice's bedroom we see, in toy form, some of the colourful characters she will meet later in the movie. Also, the opening and closing scenes show us the guests at the tea party at Alice's house; guests that make up the characters in Wonderland. However many of the stars are noticeably absent from the real world segments (including Robbie Coltrane, Gene Wilder, Christopher Lloyd and Pete Postlethwaite).

On a technical point, I was a bit disappointed to see that the original aspect ratio of 4/3 had been artificially stretched to fit on widescreen TVs. However, this can be easily fixed by changing your TV default setting of "auto" and changing it to 4/3. It's not anything that should cause too much of an issue, though.

There's a little bit of The Wizard of Oz added to the mix with the inclusion of a Toto-esque cairn terrier and the fact that there's a storm brewing. In addition, as mentioned previously, the characters from the real world also become the characters in Wonderland.

It appears as fresh today as when it was originally broadcast back in 1999. It's a good, solid reworking of Carroll's creation and one that will appeal to every member of the family.


Darren Rea

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