out of Five
Running time: 90
Malice in Wonderland is a nice idea that doesn't quite work, thanks to poor direction, garish production design and an awkward central performance by Maggie Grace.
What's it all about?
Directed by Simon Fellows, Malice in Wonderland stars Maggie Grace as Alice, an American law student living in London, who gets amnesia when she's hit by a taxi cab driven by Whitey (Danny Dyer).
As the title of the film suggests, this is a gangland reworking of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, so with Whitey as her White Rabbit, Alice quickly finds herself dragged into a weird underworld peopled with such characters as transvestite crime lord Hattie (the King and the Queen – played by Nathaniel Parker), dodgy fairground owner Gonzo (the Dodo – Matt King), dozy nightclub doormen Dean and Dom Tweedle (Tweedledum and Tweedledee) and night-time radio DJ Felix Chester (the Cheshire Cat – Gary Beadle), all of whom either help or hinder her on her quest to recover her memory.
Originally titled Malice in Sunderland, Malice in Wonderland is an original idea that unfortunately doesn't quite work. That said, it's fun to match up the gangland characters with their Alice in Wonderland counterparts and the film does pull off a couple of impressively groan-worthy jokes, such as Alice driving off with a truckload of prostitutes (in a mobile brothel), which becomes “stealing the tarts”.
The performances are generally cartoonish and over the top – to that end, Matt King and Gary Beadle are probably the standouts. However, Maggie Grace is clearly out of her depth as Alice and doesn't bring anything to the character except a few gormless expressions and a general sense of awkwardness, while Dyer's twitchy sweariness is quite jarring.
Similarly, the dialogue doesn't quite do justice to the main idea and the whole thing is rather too shrill and garish to really work properly. In addition, the plot doesn't hold together too well, beyond just ticking off the characters and references and the mawkishness of the ending feels tacked on and unearned.
Malice in Wonderland is a good idea that unfortunately doesn't quite work, thanks to poor direction and a script that's not as clever or as funny as it thinks it is. Unsurprisingly, this is one of those brief-theatrical-release-before-going-straight-to-DVD releases and as such, it's really not worth seeing on the big screen.
Malice in Wonderland (15)