REVIEW: ALICE (2009)

CAST

Caterina Scorsone (Grey’s Anatomy)
Andrew-Lee Potts (Primeval)
Matt Frewer (Lawnmower Man 2)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Philip Winchester (Solomon Kane)
Colm Meaney (Star Trek: DS9)
Tim Curry (IT)
Harry Dean Stanton (The Avengers)
Zak Santiago (Caprica)
Charlotte Sullivan (Smallville)
Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Eugene Lipinski (Arrow)
Alex Diakun (Andromeda)
Kevan Ohtsji (Godzilla)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)

Alice Hamilton is a judo sensei living with her mother Carol. Her father disappeared when she was ten, and she has spent much of her life looking for him. She invites her new boyfriend Jack Chase to dinner, but is shocked when he gives her a valuable-looking ring as a gift. Jack abruptly leaves, Alice following only to witness Jack being abducted by several men. A man (the White Rabbit) appears and finds out that Alice is in possession of the ring because he hears the click of the mechanical box that contains the ring opening behind her back. He manages to take the box from her, thinking the ring is still in it, but Alice had already quickly taken it out and resealed the box. The White Rabbit runs away and Alice chases him to find out where they had taken Jack, but falls through a giant looking glass and lands in Wonderland, which has evolved over the past 150 years. The Queen of Hearts rules over Wonderland from the Heart Casino, where people from Alice’s world (“Oysters”) are taken to, sedated and play games in the casino, their positive emotions drained from them and turned into drug-like substances for the people of Wonderland to digest, keeping them under the Queen’s control.

Alice escapes her own capture, with the ring still in her possession. Identified as an “Oyster” by the tattoo she gains, Alice is taken to the Hatter, a member of the resistance seeking to free the Oysters from the Queen’s control. The Hatter takes Alice to ask Dodo to help save Jack, but Dodo refuses, until the Hatter reveals the ring Alice wears, which Dodo recognizes as the Stone of Wonderland, able to open the Looking Glass back to the human world. Alice flees when Dodo tries to kill her, the Hatter accompanying her to the forest where they escape a jabberwock and meet Charlie, a surviving White Knight, who fled a battle years ago where Wonderland’s knights were wiped out by the Queen. The Queen has the White Rabbit executed, and has the Walrus and Carpenter revive Mad March, her favorite assassin to track Alice.

Alice deliberately allows Mad March to capture her, so she can negotiate with the Queen to free Jack in return for the ring, which Alice has hidden. Jack appears, revealed as the Queen’s son and to already be engaged to the Duchess. However, Jack passes Alice her father’s watch, implying he is alive and in Wonderland. Alice is put in the Truth Room, where Tweedledum and Tweedledee interrogate her to learn the ring’s location, but she is freed by the Hatter and Charlie, the trio escaping back to the forests, whilst Jack also escapes. In hopes of aiding the resistance and returning Alice home, Hatter uses his connections to find someone who can bring them to Caterpillar, leader of the resistance, using the ring as leverage. To their surprise, the agent who arrives is Jack, revealing him as an agent of the resistance who had originally stolen the ring as part of a ploy to initiate a coup to overthrow the queen. Trusting him, Alice retrieves the ring, and accompanies Jack to meet Caterpillar, who reveals that Alice’s father is Carpenter, but he has no memory of her. As the Carpenter has been crucial in process for extracting emotions for the Queen, Jack had deliberately approached Alice in hopes that she could help the Carpenter break away from the Queen’s control. Just as the Carpenter shows signs of regaining memories, Mad March and his minions arrive, capturing Alice and Jack whilst Caterpillar escapes.
Harry Dean Stanton, Caterina Scorsone, and Philip Winchester in Alice (2009)
Reunited with her ring, the Queen decides to send Alice home and execute Jack. The Hatter stages a rescue with Charlie but is captured by Mad March after Charlie loses his courage and flees. Charlie, after feeling guilty for deserting the Hatter, uses the skeletons of the extinct White Knights as a distraction to trick the Hearts into believing they are under attack. After being tortured by Dr. Dum and Dee, Hatter kills Mad March and escapes. Alice escapes again, joining up with the Hatter to snap the Oysters out of their sedations and rally them to escape. Carpenter appears, having regained his memories, but is killed by Walrus. The Oysters’ unpleasant emotions run high, causing the casino to start collapsing. Alice, the Hatter, Jack, the Duchess and the Queen escape but Winston, the loyal King of Hearts willingly perishes knowing his wife never loved him. With her followers no longer listening to or fearing her, the powerless Queen surrenders the Stone of Wonderland to Alice. Alice returns home, learning her experience may have been a dream when she awakens in hospital to find she had been found unconscious an hour after chasing Jack. However, the next day she discovers the “construction worker” who found her was the Hatter. The two share a passionate kiss in front of a looking glass, as Carol stares in shock.

Scorsone makes an excellent modern Alice — intelligent, capable and capable of butt-kicking her way out, but still vulnerable and young (“You don’t remember me!”). Potts makes a quirky, disheveled Hatter, and Frewer rounds out the main trio as a mildly insane White Knight. Winchester and Colm Meaney are also excellent, Tim Curry is brilliant but underused, and Kathy Bates absolutely rules as the casually cruel, petulant Queen. And yes, she does say “off with his head!. lots of action, a touch of romance, and just enough surreality.