Combining Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Lookingglass into one story, Hallmark Entertainment’s Alice in Wonderland is a delight for the senses. This lavish production from the team who put together Merlin and The Odyssey boasts an outstanding all-star cast, terrific music, outstanding production design and incredible puppets designed by the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
The entire rogue’s gallery of offbeat characters Alice encounters in Lewis Carroll’s masterworks make an appearance in this film, with notable and wonderfully over-the-top performances by Miranda Richardson as the Queen of Hearts, Ben Kingsley as Major Caterpillar and Elizabeth Spriggs as the Duchess. Stealing the whole show, however, Martin Short as the Mad Hatter and Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle are so gloriously funny, I yearned to see “The Mad Hatter’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Mock Turtle Through The Lookingglass.” As a matter of fact, if Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood Powerbroker read this, cast Short and Wilder in any small roles that require the funny. You can’t go wrong.
Peter Barnes’ script can be a bit difficult to follow at times, the episodes seemingly unrelated to Alice’s goal of leaving Wonderland. But to the credit of the filmmakers and NBC, who co-produced and aired the movie, the film pulls no punches with the tale’s seedier more controversial aspects -- Ben Kingsley’s hookah-smoking caterpillar is obviously smoking a hookah. Unfortunately, much of the wit and odd humor of Carroll’s stories is lost in the adaptation, but again, the performances of Wilder and Short more than make up for it.