Lester the Jester does not appear in Lewis Carroll's original novel. He was intended by the writers of this TV version to be a direct imitation of the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz", which, at the time that this "Alice" was telecast, was rapidly becoming the most popular theatrical film on television (the most famous version of that story, The Wizard of Oz, was, at that time, telecast annually by CBS.) See more »
I have very fond memories of this TV movie. I remember seeing it as a small child on VHS and loving it. I just saw it again recently, and it still holds up well, even as an adult. It's a stage play adaptation of Lewis Carroll's famous sequel to "Alice in Wonderland". But the focus is more on the songs than it is on the adaptation. This is a good thing, because the songs are quite good and very catchy. It's also wonderfully performed by a cast who you could tell had a lot of fun making it.
A word of caution, the stage play feel of this movie is quite apparent. It was made for TV, so don't expect high production values. In fact, it feels more like a variety show than a movie. Nevertheless, the sets and costumes are quite imaginative, and little kids will be drawn in by the children show look of the movie.
The best part of this movie are the songs themselves. They are very memorable and some are classics in their own right. Decades after seeing it for the first time I could still sing along to many of the songs. You could tell they were influenced by 1939's "The Wizard of Oz", because the songs, pacing, and overall feel is very similar to that movie, albeit on a smaller scale. There are several cameos by prominent performers (Jimmy Durante, the Smothers Brothers, Ricardo Montalbon, Jack Palance and Roy Castle among others). The performances are very upbeat and delightful ... another reason why little kids will love this movie.
The most important role is, of course, Alice herself. Alice is portrayed by the adorable Judi Rolin. Judi Rolin was 20 when they filmed this, so Alice is a bit older than she was in the book, but they definitely made a wise choice in casting her. Judi Rolin's beautiful smile, childlike innocence, energy, and gleeful singing definitely make this movie. Had it not been for Rolin, I'm not sure this film would have worked at all. It's a shame she wasn't cast in more roles after this.
All of that being said, this film is not for everybody. I admit that I am viewing it with rose tinted glasses as I did love the movie as a kid. It strays very far from the source text, and, in a way, is almost a whole new story. At its worst, it can be quite corny, and the almost overly optimistic atmosphere, low budget costumes, scenery and camera tricks will probably make more than a few people roll their eyes. But most kids will not care. They will love the songs and the happy atmosphere. And those of us who are not yet completely jaded in our adulthood will still enjoy it.
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