Children’s’ heads are usually force fed saccharine gruel by funnel. The process resembles teaching ducks to grow up to be foie gras. That’s why I’ve always loved ALICE IN WONDERLAND. For a book aimed at malleable brains it is deliciously dark and strange. Imagine WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS writing for Highlights Magazine in a psychedelic beanie. Alice’s encounters mirror a universal part of adolescence when one is trying to decipher their new surroundings and every question is met with nonsensical answers. What child can’t relate to the feeling of being indoctrinated into a world of seemingly random (forks on the left, spoons on the right) protocol? ALICE does more than grab the reader by the hand and tour them through a colorful landscape, it slyly teaches them how to spot the absurdity in their own world as well.
For fans of WONDERLAND, DREAMCHILD is really a must see. It focuses on the twilight of the woman who once inspired the tale as she travels to New York for a celebration of the work and life of its author. Some of the movie is as dainty as a doily, which makes its multiple plunges into near ELM STREET territory all the more disturbing. It’s like having tea with DAME JUDI DENCH and then she suddenly leans into reveal, “I’m tripping my balls off.”
Who is to say how accurate any of the flashbacks are but as the eighty-year old Alice Hargreaves is jolted with lightening blast recollections of her youth, we get a glimpse into her vaguely creepy relationship with the man she theoretically inspired. As played by IAN HOLM (ALIEN, THE SWEET HEREAFTER) Reverend Charles L. Dobson (also known as Lewis Carroll) is at turns off-putting and sympathetic. Plagued by a speech impediment and awkward social skills, one wonders if his fascination with the young quizzical child was merely a coveting of the normalcy she had to look forward to in life. Much speculation is made about the true catalyst behind CARROLL’s work, but here he is presented as a sort of shadowy Jaberwocky himself until elderly Alice comes to terms with her memories and is able to separate herself from her more famous fictional identity.
Whatever. As much as I love my homie HOLM there is literally nothing in this movie that is not utterly and completely upstaged by the fucking incredible creations by JIM HENSON’s creature shop. Don’t get me wrong, there is a very sweet, finely done drama going on here (written by DENNIS POTTER no less) but if you’re a brat like me you’ll only pretend to care whether the old lady gets her act together before kicking the bucket just so you can get a glimpse of the incredibly monstrous and borderline hideous denizens of wonderland that KRUEGER-stalk her psyche. If you want to learn about the real Alice Hargreave, go to the library or better yet Google the lady. Instead, I’m going to stare at these incredible images from DREAMCHILD…
NOTE: If you want to check out this barrel of awesome get thee to Netflix Streaming. It has never been released on DVD and the VHS looks like crap. I like this movie a great deal but I have no option but to remove seventy hundred groovy points for not inviting the Chesire Cat to the party.