Malice in Wonderland (2009)

Rating: B-

Dir: Simon Fellows
Star: Maggie Grace, Danny Dyer, Nathaniel Parker, Matt King

Lewis Carroll’s classic has lent itself to many different interpretations over the years, but this is likely the first adaptation set in a surreal British criminal underworld. While escaping her father’s henchmen, Alice Dodgson (Grace) is knocked down by a cab driven by Whitey (Dyer). He promises to drop her off, but first has to complete his mission, delivering a birthday present to the local mob boss (Parker) in his seaside palace/nightclub. However, when word gets out that Alice’s dad has offered a massive reward for her safe return, she suddenly becomes the most popular person in town, and not everyone necessarily has her best interests at heart.

With the intermittent help of Whitey, she has to negotiate her way through a seedy underworld of thugs, druggies, hookers and miscellaneous low-lifes – and complicating matters, she has lost her memory, so can’t recall exactly why her father’s men were chasing her. However, it seems to have something to do with her mother… Some films are just so completely off-center, they’re difficult to get any kind of handle on. And then, suddenly, it all seems to click. Such was the case here. It was probably almost an hour in, with a sequence where two bouncers are spurning all wannabe entrants to the club, in the best doorman scene since From Dusk Till Dawn. And, boom, I got what the film was trying do: create a dreamlike atmosphere fractionally grounded in reality, and it’s surprisingly how well the Ritchie-esque scenario meshes with Alice in Wonderland.

Who knew, that when Carroll wrote about “stealing tarts”, he was actually referring to abducting prostitutes? Well, actually, given some of the suggestions about Carroll’s other dubious tendencies, it’s not inappropriate. Anyhow, Dyer delivers his usual cheeky Cockney performance, but both he and the rest of the characters are generally interesting, in a quirkily-odd way, and there’s no denying the originality of the approach. Besides, I feel honour-bound to like any movie described by Christopher Tookey as “a cinematic abomination devoid of point, humour and entertainment value.”