Recently I watched the movie Malice in Wonderland on Netflix streaming. I put it in my queue a very long time ago because I will watch pretty much anything Alice in Wonderland themed.
I have loved Alice in Wonderland since I was a little girl. I remember the movie, but we never owned it. Just the idea though enchanted me, particularly since I was convinced for a long time that it was Allison Wonderland, because my name was Allison I automatically assumed it wasn’t Alice in, and I thought Allison Wonderland was a pretty sweet name. Of course, I eventually realized that wasn’t true, but it was too late, I was already enchanted.
In my house, we may not have had the Disney movie, but we did have the most beautiful copy of the book. It was hardcover, black bound with gold embossed title and gold-edged pages. I remember making my dad read me it with me in his lap looking at the pictures. As I got older, I read the Adventures of Alice in entirety. It became one of my favorite books of all time, and is my favorite childhood one, The Wizard of Oz is the only other one that came close.. It is so interesting and crazy and dark. I don’t think anyone will ever write anything quite like it again. (The only other thing that I found even remotely similar was reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)
That being said, I expect very little from movies of Alice in Wonderland. Normally, it is just not possible to make a great movie of it. The Tim Burton one is vibrantly beautiful, Johnny Depp is amazing, but it’s still not the best adaptation possible. Therefore, the 2009, clearly small-budget, modern interpretation film had little hope in my mind.
I was completely wrong. This movie was actually really cleverly done. Somewhat like the Sleeping Beauty movie I reviewed before, this is exactly the kind of things I feel like I should be writing. It is like they combined a British underworld Guy Ritchie movie with Alice in Wonderland. Guy Ritchie is my favorite director, so essentially, this has me written all over it. Now, come the SPOILERS. Be warned.
The movie starts with our Alice (Maggie Grace from The Jane Austen Book Club and Taken,) running through a London subway station from two men who are clearly chasing her. She stops to give a homeless woman with a cartful of clocks some change asking for a street her mother used to live on, and then gets hit by a cab driver called Whitey who is obsessed with the time, wearing two watches, and running late. He is clearly our White Rabbit. She is out of it, so he puts her in the cab while he goes in search of a coming out present for Harry, a mob boss, who is gay and likes to shoot people in the head, or have his man chop them off. Meet our Red Queen (love the language play here.) The fun wordplay starts here and doesn’t end, both very Alice in Wonderland in nature, and also clever in general. When discussing Harry’s power, Whitey says he has the all-seeing eye, and that, “He makes Sauron look like Stevie Wonder.” They keep talking about how he missed the delivery of a tie for him.
Alice has amnesia and can no longer remember her name. Whitey gives her some pills that say “For Your Head” that become the equivalent of our “Eat Me” “Drink Me” Alice staples. Each time she takes the crazy looking pills, I kind of expect her to enter the Matrix, but instead she passes out and we get a strange mishmash of memories that clearly involves issues with her parents and some info she’s dug up on her father, almost like she’s blackmailing him.
From there, we see Whitey miss his delivery, and we meet the Doormouse and the Dodo bird, a man who is competing with Whitey for the mob boss’s affection. They also go through Alice’s purse and find out she’s loaded, while also building a bit of sexual tension. He leaves her to catch a bus while he goes to visit the Duchess, who has stolen his birthday gift, and agrees to give Harry the tie and a cake from them both. She takes another pill while waiting. Whitey stops at a gas station and sees that Alice is a girl from America and her father is claiming she’s been kidnapped and offering a 10 million dollar reward to get her back. He goes back to rescue her.
She meanwhile, is not there, she’s been picked up by the Caterpillar, a weed dealer who is hot-boxing his car with a woman. Their conversation is done entirely in rhyme. Alice decides with their help that she should go to Harry’s party to find Whitey to get a ride home. To get an invite to the party, she goes to visit the Duchess too to take her invitation. In exchange, the Duchess, who never leaves the house, wants information about Alice, and helps her identify the damage that is causing her amnesia and says it’s getting better.
She leaves with the instructions to follow the red to Hearts bar, where the party is. Red electric lights have been hung, and she chases the Doormouse to find the way. When she loses him, she has a conversation with a billboard of a guy she heard in her headphones earlier, Felix Chester, our Cheshire Cat. He offers her, naturally, advice and a riddle.
She then finds a truck-driver diner and the Doormouse, takes another pill, and wakes up with the hair and outfit of a hooker. The woman who has done her hair is our Mad Hatter, and she seems to think she has just contracted her into prostitution with the updo. She sends her out to a semi with a man, who she attacks with a TV, then drives the semi off with an open cargo hold of prostitutes. Whitey pulls along side her, and she improbably jumps to safety into his car just as her raper tries to bust in. He asks what she did to her hair, and she says “You people are insane.” He responds, “It’s in the breathing”; probably the best line of the whole movie.
From there, he tells her who she is and locks her in a motel to protect her with one of his watches to keep them in sync. He gets jumped by Dodo though who steals her to split the ransom money with Harry as a present. Whitey goes and gets his cake to go to the party to rescue her. At the party, the bouncers are Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, but they let Alice and Dodo in, where we meet Harry. She goes for a drink at the party, while Whitey delivers his gift, a giant cake with a Thai person inside, not quite the tie we expected, again with fun word play! The King shoots the Dodo bird when Whitey convinces him to let him handle the Alice ransom situation.
The Mad Hatter lady-pimp appears and wants justice for her “stolen tarts,” so they hold a weird trial. Alice gets to call a witness, and she calls Felix, who tells her he can give her back the time she lost giving money to the homeless woman. She insults Harry, then has him freeze time while she runs away, she stops to get Whitey, and as they’re running away, Harry shoots him. She keeps running, and locks a metal door behind her, and we find Alice in the subway tunnel we started in, moments before the first version of her arrives. She runs out into the street, stops Whitey’s cab and convinces him to take the ransom money with her and run away instead because he will die and because her father is trying to arrange her marriage to a random German man, and he’s not her real father. She convinces him with his watch, still on her wrist. They go to the street she was originally looking for and find out that the homeless woman is her actual mother who had sold her to the American couple. She goes to her, and they all presumably live happily ever after.
This post really doesn’t do the movie the justice it deserves. It is so good! Please, just go watch it. It had a clever different plot while truly incorporating the characters and darkness of Alice in Wonderland. So to further entice you, I leave you with this Felix riddle, which you will just have to watch the movie to solve:
“What’s got no conditions but one condition?”