The wonder of CBS' new production of "Alice in Wonderland" is that it is so completely wonder less.
Alice in Dullsville is more like it.
Producer Irwin Allen & Co. have managed to transform Lewis Carroll's two famous novels of whimsy into four hours of lifeless nonsense.
The first two-hour installment, based on "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," airs tonight at 8 p.m. on Channels 2 and 8. The second part, taken largely from Carroll's sequel, "Through the Looking Glass"--except for the decidedly nonwhimsical addition of a ridiculous-looking man in a dragon's costume who keeps making Alice squeal--follows on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Like the "Alice in Wonderland" production that aired on PBS in 1983, the latest version is told with musical accompaniment (in the form of prerecorded songs that the performers lip-synch) and a herd of unusually outfitted celebrities in the supporting cast.
Also like the earlier effort, this "Alice" fails to tell a coherent story. "There's too much sense in the world," the Mock Turtle sings at one point. Not here, there isn't. As written by Paul Zindel and directed by Harry Harris, Alice's haphazard, segmented travels through a weird and silly world have neither meaning nor sense of drama.
That might be forgivable if there were at least a sense of fun or charm in her encounters with the likes of the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. But while some of the costuming and makeup is inventive, the production is without style or verve.
Unfolding at a pace that can only be described as relentlessly plodding, it sports some of the most forgettable songs and dance sequences this side of MTV, theme music that seems to have been borrowed from "The Love Boat" and overlit sound-stage sets that look like they were left over from "Fantasy Island."
As Alice, 9-year-old Natalie Gregory is appropriately cute, blond and bright-eyed, but she's as lost in the morass of a story as Alice is in Wonderland.
"Everything has a moral, if only you can find it," the Duchess tells Alice. The one here has more to do with overblown Hollywood productions than anything Lewis Carroll ever had in mind.