Alice (1989 Czechoslovakia)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/6/06
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Written By: Lewis Carroll, Jan Svankmajer
Cast: Kristýna Kohoutová

A wonderfully twisted retelling of Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" that's visually astounding, but suffers from some of the worst foley work I've ever encountered. The film is literally painful to listen to, which is a real shame. Alice is played to perfection by the adorable Kristýna Kohoutová, and she is utterly delightful to watch. While she doesn't get to do much except stare blankly, act girlie, and gaze in amazement and terror, she handles it all with the confidence and conviction of a seasoned veteran. Very impressive.

To create his vision of Wonderland, director Jan Svankmajer mixes live action with stop-motion animation and physical effects. The animation is intricate and complex, and some of it even uses natural lighting (which introduces a whole new level of difficulty). Alice herself transforms into a creepy stop-motion doll when she shrinks, which fits in nicely with all of the other frightening looking characters. The imagery may be too intense and scary for younger viewers, and the skewed reality may be difficult for adults to grasp as well. The film is just oozing with Eastern European flair, and not surprisingly the budget is miniscule and the production values are on par with a high end home movie. While the cinematography and editing are right on the mark, the sound dubbing is amateurish and simply DREADFUL. Alice's constant narration is also distracting and disconcerting, but perhaps that was intentional. Overall, if you like animation and/or freaky European art films, "Alice" is definitely worth checking out.