Malice in Wonderland


Rating 2

Directed by Simon Fellows

Written by Jayson Rothwell, loosely based on ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

Starring Maggie Grace (Alice), Danny Dyer (Whitey), Nathaniel Parker (Harry Hunt), Pam Ferris (The Duchess), Matt King (Gonzo), Antony Higgins (Rex), Paul Kaye (Caterpillar), Gary Beadle (Felix Chester), Steve Haze (Midge), Amanda Boxer (Bag Lady) and Bronagh Gallagher (Hattie)

An American student is knocked over by a black cab while being chased by a couple of goons. Although she is not seriously hurt, the collision leaves her suffering from amnesia. Whitey, the taxi driver, puts her in the back of his vehicle and says he will help her, but first he has to collect a gift for a notorious underworld boss and he is already late. Alice is thrown into a surreal after-dark world of crime and bizarre characters as she tries to remember who she is and get home.


‘Malice in Wonderland’ is an unusual take on the Lewis Carroll story, played out as a kind of comic version of a Guy Ritchie gangster flick. The film critic Kim Newman, writing in Empire magazine, called it a “genuinely original interpretation”, but in general it was received with far less welcoming words. Ten reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes result in a 10% rotten rating.

I really wanted to like the film and I was certainly looking forward to watching it. In the event, I cannot pretend that it wasn’t a slight disappointment. The look of the film, all tacky neon and suffused lighting, is effective, but the performances are relentlessly quirky, which can become become rather irritating.

Danny Dyer, who has recently attracted much bad publicity as a result of an ill-informed and badly thought-out ghost-written item in the utterly appalling and reprehensible lads mag ‘Zoo’, plays to type as a small-time crook. He has so far failed to build on the early promise he showed as an actor. Maggie Grace, in the central role, phones in an uninvolved and uninvolving performance. She has been effective in the past, but here she simply seems miscast, all at sea and uninterested. She signed up as a last-minute replacement for Mischa Barton, but she seems to have no great passion for the part. However, in the original story Alice is a largely uninvolved and bemused bystander to the surreal events taking place around her, so perhaps Grace has not approached her performance without giving it at least some thought.

I liked ‘Malice in Wonderland’ enough to watch it twice, but I cannot imagine it is a film I would recommend to anyone else. The film it most reminds me of is Martin Scorsese’s 1985 black comedy ‘After Hours’.

Review posed 23 May 2010


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