|Hectic, frenetic, energetic and often incoherent - director Simon Fellows odd homage to Lewis G. Carroll’s classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ titled appropriately ‘Malice in Wonderland’ is a crazy, wild, silly ride down the depths of the London Underground. Truth be told, and you didn’t here it from us, Fellows’ movie is a much truer representation of Carroll’s work, at least in spirit, than Tim Burton’s bloated version that we saw a couple of months ago though I can’t honestly say I’d want to watch either of them a second time.
We first meet Alice (Maggie Grace) running through a London subway fleeing from a couple of dudes in suits for reasons which will become clear soon enough. Recklessly Alice runs into the street and gets run down by a cab driven by Whitey (Danny Dyer), who is obsessed with time and is late for an important date. Fortunately Alice is a sturdy girl and sustains little damage outside of a nasty bump on the head which does have the side effect of making her lose memory.
Though he’d rather not be bothered Whitey throws the kid in the back of the cab and continues on his journey which consists of trying to find a suitable gift for the blow out bash of a birthday party for crazed mobster Harry Hunt who is a bit of 'queen' (Nathaniel Parker). Whitey was also a doctor or a pharmacist at one time and as such has a bunch of drugs, some of which he gives Alice to help her regain fragments of her memory.
Eventually Whitey has to leave Alice to her own devices as he has much to do to prepare for his important date and now with Alice on her own she embarks upon adventure after adventure in which she will meet all fashions of questionable
|individuals, most of which you will recognize from in some form or fashion from the original tale and some that I personally had no clue who they were supposed to be. In addition to so many others we will meet Hattie (Bronagh Gallager) who is quite mad, Caterpillar (Paul Kaye) who delivers sage advice with a little help from his friends, a Tweedledum and Tweedledee sighting, a wise old mystical bag lady and of course there’s D.J. Felix Chester (Gary Beadle) who fades in and out of the scene and also offers Alice all kinds of sage advice with a smile on his face.
Eventually all will learn that Alice is the wayward daughter of the wealthy Mr. Dodgson, interesting name that Dodgson, and there is a hefty price on her safe return. Recognize that Harry Hunt and the word ‘safe’ don’t exist well together so Alice will find herself in a mess of trouble doomed for a terrible end unless the man obsessed with time, who has taken a liking to the odd girl, can find a way to save her without getting himself silenced in the process.
As it turns out I’ve seen a few of director Simon Fellows works which have all been Straight to DVD action vehicles for Straight to DVD action masters Wesley Snipes (7 Seconds) and Jean Claude Van Damme (Second in Command, Until Death) and while leaping from suspect run-of-the-mill action flicks to Lewis G. Carroll might seem a stretch, actually watching ‘Malice in Wonderland’ and the way this film went about its business those other movies served as solid training for Mr. Fellows.
At its heart ‘Malice in Wonderland’ is a crime flick as we spend most of our time with low characters in low places doing dirty things with a confused na´ve girl stuck in the middle. Honestly the first half of the movie, and maybe even further in, was mighty frustrating to get through as it was pretty hectic and nonsensical and didn’t seem to be making any kind of sense or going in any particular place that we could make heads or tails of. It was plenty energetic and Fellows created a pace for his movie that looked like he was directing while high on crack but the narrative was anything but coherent.
The good thing is that by the time the third act was preparing to roll around everything that we had seen prior was starting come into some kind of clear focus, if not totally, but more than enough for this audience member to understand what was going on in this wacky movie. It also helped that there were some fine performances from a wide and varied group of eclectic actors and actresses driving this nonsense which made the movie fun to watch even when it wasn’t making any kind of real world sense.
The best thing we can say about ‘Malice in Wonderland’ is that in a cinematic world of sameness and retreads it did at least have the nerve to be different and unique. I don’t if I can say with conviction that director Simon Fellows and screenwriter Jayson Rothwell succeeded in actually making a ‘good’ movie but they did make a unique movie that was worth watching, and that, in this day an age, is something that is a little bit special.