I'm a big fan of all things Alice in Wonderland, and while I don't care for the Peter Pan mythos, the premise of Come Away (2020) sounded intriguing. Alice and Peter as siblings who visit Wonderland and Neverland together? And by the way, they're black. Race relations in Victorian society! So I plopped down my $19.95 to Vudu's Theater at Home service the day it started streaming.
And then I started kicking myself.
1. Dreary, depressing, obsessed with death -- ok, no problem. -- have you actually read the Alice and Peter Pan books? Stay a child forever, if you can. Growing up is terrible. You have to do icky things like get a job and get married, and then you die.
Come, hearken then, ere voice of dread, with bitter tidings laden, shall summon to unwelcome bed a melancholy maiden!
2. Race is irrelevant Victorian society -- ok, no problem. Maybe the black actors were cast because they aced their auditions.
3. But it is unforgiveable to make us slosh through the melancholy, dreary, painfully depressing world of adults, where it's always winter but never Christmas (sorry, wrong book) to the bitter end, and Alice and Peter NEVER GO ANYWHERE!
They're supposed to be exploring Wonderland and Neverland, for chrissakes!
The plot: Alice, Peter, and their older brother David live in dreary Victorian England with their progressive parents, Jack (David Oyelowo, top photo) and Rose (Angelina Jolie), having pretend adventures. Then one day they are all playing pirates when David falls into the lake and drowns.
The family falls apart. Jack descends to a world of gambling, gambling debts, and child neglect. Rose, delusional and about to die of grief, takes to her bed and drinks. Snobbish Aunt Eleanor arrives, plotting to send Alice away to boarding school, which strikes me as an excellent idea, but is presented as a fate worse than death. Well, a fate the same as death.
Don't let the smiling faces fool you. After the first five minutes, no one ever smiles again -- for the rest of their lives.
Alice and David try to ease their pain by rumbling through the Victorian underworld, encountering tawdry real-life versions of the characters and situations of Neverland and Wonderland For instance, a Mad Hatter prototype runs the pawn shop where they are trying to raise some cash to pay Dad's gambling debts.
But there is no Wonderland. There is no Neverland. There is no nothing.
Peter, who blames himself for David's death and the destruction of the family, never manages to move on. He "never grows up," vanishing into his father's world of gambling, drinking, and death. Alice grows up, marries Mr. Darling -- the same thing as death -- has three kids (Michael, Wendy, and John), and writes the books as a form of grief therapy.
So if Peter Pan comes through the window, he will be Wendy's uncle?
The books were actually written by J. M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll, who were living in England during this period and occasionally smiled. Wouldn't it have been cool if Alice and Peter met them?
Or if, like, they actually had the adventures the movie promises?
This lying, deceptive piece of con-artist garbage reminds me of The Bridge to Terabithia, which also lures you in with the promise of an alternate world fantasy, only to punch you in the stomach: "Fooled you! This is a movie about a child dying, but you already paid, so we don't care."
Gay characters: None specified.
Heterosexism: Alice and Peter are siblings, so thankfully no pre-teen falling-in-love.
My grade: F-.