Pros: OK retelling of the story. Some cool-ish moments. Ian Holm is good.
Cons: Creepy gown-up/kiddie vibe. Sian Phillips in red Spandex (atsanogood). Cheap production.
I picked this one up in a post-Christmas (and impending recession) clearance at the local K-Mart. The cover art has Miss Kate Beckensale dressed in the traditional 1865 or so pinafore and some Wonderland-looking stuff scattered about in the background. Two things struck me: 1). Kate Beckensale is a little too old to play Alice and, 2). I don't think Victoria children usually wore quite that much lipstick.
Everybody, I think, is at least passingly familiar to most people, from the "Looking Glass" book and it's predecessor "Alice in Wonderland". Both from the pen of an otherwise unprepossessing Oxford Mathematics professor Charles Dodgson. The strange, phantasmagoric settings and situations have been amusing kids since Victoria was queen and tripping out... others, since about 1966.
The two big challenges of making a movie of the Alice books are: 1). finding an appealing and convincing Alice and, 2). visualizing the Wonderland/Looking Glass world. What does a "Bread-and-Butterfly" actually look like? The way chosen by Disney and most others is animation. It's a bit of a gutsy call to do one of these in live action.
The gimmick the Nelvana folks who made this version of "Looking Glass" is to grow Alice up. Alice-Beckensale is a grown-up mother of a child Alice who ends up pulled into Looking Glass Land more or less accidentally. Once there, however, the script conforms very closely to the book. The solution to problem 2 is to spend about as much money as an average episode of "Doctor Who" and SMILE.
This film was made on the Isle on Man (courtesy of the Isle of Man Film Commission!), Some of the locations are pretty cool and lend themselves well to some of the surreal/trippy sequences. The cast is OK to very good, Ian Holm is a special stand-out as the ding-bat White Knight. In fact, his scenes are the highlights of the production. Some of the other members of the cast will be familiar, in face if not name, to viewers of PBS/Brit-Com type programing.
While not generally objectionable there were a few things that bugged me about the proceedings in this movie. First was the use of the decidedly grown-up and rather pneumatic Beckensale dressed up as a Victorian child. While it might very well be possible to re-do "Looking Glass" with an adult heroine and have the results not be a disaster (possible, but I wouldn't get my hopes up), dressing up the said adult heroine as the child-Alice and then acting as though there in nothing amiss isn't the way to do it.. Beckensale playing Victorian kiddie dress-up is a little bit creepy. Oh yeah, speaking of creepy, while the lady playing the Red Queen, Sian Phillips, is, I'm sure, an excellent actress (wasn't she in "I, Claudius"?), she is, I think, about 145, and if I were making the call, skintight Spandex would not be used in her costume. No. Atsanogood.
None of that will matter terribly to your kids, I expect. I guess if they're already fans of the books they might like a live-action look at the story. If they're not familiar with the story, or if they go to public school and don't read at all, I really don't think this isn't the place to start. Too trippy, too strange. You could try reading the book to them...
(Quite kid-safe. No significant extras.)