Robert Halmi’s Alice in Wonderland

cover art for Alice in WonderlandWhenever possible, start by saying something nice:

This movie looks great. The sets and the character designs all have a touch of the Tenniel illustrations, that sense that everything’s funny and scary at the same time. Unfortunately, that sense isn’t carried out in this plodding, simple-minded –

Stick to the nice, Will!

This is a great cast for an Alice movie. Miranda Richardson is wonderful in what’s essentially a madder version of Elizabeth I from Blackadder II. Martin Short has a couple of musical bits that’re delightful. Whoopi Goldberg has a perfect smile for the Cheshire Cat. Unfortunately, her American accent really stands out in the predominately British cast, and she doesn’t really have much to do. Which might be a blessing, since everyone else’s scenes drag on much too long –

Being nice is really hard for you, isn’t it, Will?

This is the best Halmi production I’ve ever seen; I managed to watch two-thirds of it in one sitting before I nodded off, and the next day, feeling obliged to check the end for the sake of this review, I only fast forwarded through about half of the rest –


Look, this isn’t a terrible movie. It’s just slow and stupid, and it has a framing sequence that was a truly moronic notion. I don’t think the producers thought about who their audience might be. It mixes 19th century British bits from the book with contemporary North American shtick in a way that seems, well, mid-Atlantic, where this movie ought to be sunk.

You hated it?

Hey, I said some nice things about it! Someone should make a DVD player that lets you speed up a show by percentage increments and still hear the dialogue. If this movie was five or ten percent faster, it would be much better. There’s a curious notion I hear that children need slow-paced movies, even though the best and most successful Disney movies have never been slow. But I’m not sure that this movie was meant for children. Maybe Halmi thinks adults want slow-paced movies, because I’ve never seen a Halmi TV production that didn’t drag.

This would make an excellent movie for a home-editing kit. You get 129 minutes, and you could cut it down to a fun 90. Hint: Start by cutting the voice-over. I don’t always think voice-overs are a mistake, and it’s true there are a few clever bits in these voice-overs, but there aren’t enough to justify them.

And that’s all that you’ve got to say?

All that’s anything like nice? Yes.

(Hallmark Entertainment, 1999)

[Will Shetterly]