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'Alice' a fresh take on an old story

Friday, March 5, 2010

Andrew Lee Potts, left, and Matt Frewer star in "Alice," a new take on Lewis Carroll's classics "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass."
(Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
There's no Tim Burton and there's no Johnny Depp, but the Syfy Channel's "Alice" is a one-of-kind spectacle that's lifted up by wonderful performances and a very intriguing storyline. Trust me, the dynamic duo will not be missed.

Take just about everything you know about Alice and her adventures in wonderland and toss it out the window. Syfy delivers a truly unique tale that takes place 150 years after the Alice we know and showcases an adult Alice Hamilton, who stumbles onto the looking glass in a very different way, and finds oppression and confliction waiting for her on the other side.

Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is a strong-willed woman who is still trying to come to terms with the fact her father left her at an early age. She has a world map that's dotted with multicolored pushpins of the places she's attempted to find her father.

She also has guy issues. The moment they get close, she begins to push them away and when her new boyfriend Jack (Philip Winchester) attempts to give her an ancient ring, she does the same. However, Jack slips the ring into Alice's pocket and when she attempts to chase him down to return it, she sees him abducted and then slips through the looking glass by accident.

That's where the adventure begins.

Wonderland, ruled by the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates), is a much darker environment than we've come to know. They harvest humans from the other side of the looking glass for their emotions. You can buy just about any emotion you desire -- if the price is right.

Alice's quest to find Jack brings her to Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts), a man who's playing both sides of the field and walks the precarious tightrope with the ease. This is the type of character that can walk in a rainstorm and have not so much as a drop of water on his lapel.

He agrees to help Alice find Jack and return her to her world, but as the events unfold, we learn Hatter might have ulterior motives for his actions.

Hatter and Alice must evade the White Rabbit, the equivalent to Big Brother, to find Jack. They enlist the help of the White Knight (Matt Frewer), but things take an even stranger turn when we learn that Jack is actually the Queen's son and wants to overthrow his mother.

As Alice races to find her way back to her world, she discovers that her father was actually harvested in her youth and still resides in wonderland. Now she, Hatter and the White Knight must race to find a way to free her father before the Queen and her minions find the ring and regain control of the looking glass.

There's something to be said for good TV movies. They're so few and far between, but "Alice" works on many levels. It's easy to be swept up in the tale and become accustomed to everything that encompasses wonderland.

The stars of this mini-series are by far Potts and Frewer.

This was my first encounter with Potts and I was extremely impressed. His Hatter is charming, manipulative, world wary, but most of all vulnerable. To make a character that possesses such contradictions work is difficult, to make it excel takes an exceptionally good actor.

Frewer is equally amazing as the White Knight. He captures the doubt and regret wonderfully and gives the viewer a character that you can't root against. Every step of the way he battles his fears, but in the end it is he and his army that saves the day. Sort of.

I was a little disappointed by Scorsone. She simply disappears throughout the film. Where Potts and Frewer command you attention every moment their in frame, Scorsone has flashes of brilliance, but the overall performance I found lacking. Her best scene is when she finally comes face-to-face with her father for the first time.

The only special feature included with the disc is an audio commentary with director Nick Willing and Scorsone.

Final Cut: This might not be the "Alice" you've been waiting for, but I think you'll find you'll like this as much. With top-caliber performances from Potts and Frewer, "Alice" weaves an interesting tale that quickly becomes "curiouser and curiouser."

4 out of 5 Stars


Starring: Caterina Scorsone, Andrew Lee Potts, Matt Frewer, Philip Winchester, Tim Curry, Kathy Bates, Colm Meanery

Director: Nick Willing

Writer: Nick Willing

Runtime: 180 minutes

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