MALICE IN WONDERLAND
Written by Jason Flick
May 20, 2010
Chances are that you’ve seen some version of Lewis Carroll’s literary masterpiece “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” over the years. This year Alice is front and center with several DVD releases and one major motion picture. While I have seen several versions of the Alice story, the one that I daresay that I like more than any other comes in the form of “Malice in Wonderland” by Director Simon Fellows which I am reviewing today. So sit back as I cover my R-rated trip down the rabbit hole. Yes this Wonderland is not for the young ones.
Malice in Wonderland tells the tale of American law student Alice Dodgson who after finding out about her real mother sets out to find her in London. Shortly after the start of the film Alice (Maggie Grace) is hit by a London taxi driver Whitey (Danny Dyer) and after losing her memory in the process is whisked away in Whitey's cab. The events that follow are like a methodical acid trip into the underbelly of England known as "Wonderland.” As you watch the film you will run into a wild bunch of characters that take their cues from the story albeit with a few twists.
If you’ve ever read the novel then you’ll know that Charles Dodgson took several real people and modeled the anthropomorphic creatures that you see in the older Alice works. Malice in Wonderland takes those notions and ideas and turns them on their head in a brilliant fashion that will make you wondering just who is playing what character besides the obvious ones.
Malice in Wonderland is proof that you can take an old established story and make it modern for a new generation. This version is much grittier and will appeal to older audiences. Director Simon Fellows and writer Jayson Rothwell obviously took a lot of care to create their own version while keeping things fairly true to the source material. The one thing that I like most about Malice is the underlining story. This is a film about a girl wanting nothing more than to find her way home.
Visually, Malice in Wonderland feels like a twisted dream full of color hovering on the edge of our perception of reality. Simon Fellows’ vision is presented nicely in 2.35:1 widescreen MPEG-2 format for all to see. The camera used to make the film was an ARRI D21, which is one of the finest HD cameras that you can get a hold of. While this movie was shot with an HD camera it sadly did not receive a Blu-Ray release, which I would buy in a heartbeat if it ever became available. But despite that fact the contract between some of the lighter and darker moments in Malice in Wonderland are shown in great detail. There are moments where the special effects come off a bit awkward at best. I really liked the way that they chose to show Alice’s memories. It was like watching a movie on a TV with rabbit ears and poor reception.
Malice in Wonderland starts off with a catchy little tune to compliment the happy family images you see during the opening credits. I actually liked it so much I hunted it down on iTunes. You actually hear this song during the film here and there as well. The film doesn’t really rely on actual songs by artists, but more on great musical pieces that really set the tone for each scene. The actors do a great job playing off each other especially Danny Dyer’s constant ramblings about the time. The music leading up to the climax of the film is easily the best part and I could watch that part over and over again if I wanted to.
Malice in Wonderland comes packaged with a few special features on the disc. The first is “Making of Wonderland” which gives the viewer a brief look into the production of the film and insights by the main actors and crew. The second special feature is a behind the scenes photo gallery played to some of the music in the film, which was really cool. While there is no commentary from the director or anyone else on the DVD you can learn more about the film in our exclusive interview with Director Simon Fellows . You can find this title at various retailers for around $17-20 dollars, which is well worth the price of admission.
When it comes to film adaptations of well known published literary works, I find that I only like maybe a handful of them. Often time things are completely omitted so that they better suit the time constraint or the director’s vision. With Malice in Wonderland, I found that I really enjoyed this wildly unique contemporary telling of one of the most beloved stories in the world. The story was excellently written, the acting was really good, and some of the characters are quite memorable. I definitely recommend a Run…Two…Three to the nearest retailer to pick up this modern gem.