Picks and Pans Review: The Road to Wellville
Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda, Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, Dana Carvey, Traci Lind, Colm Meaney
Never has the word gag been such an appropriate synonym for bits of humor as it is in this foolish gross-out comedy, set in 1907, about a health spa run by cereal king Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek, Mich. There are 16 bowel movement-related "jokes." Six of them focus on enemas, including the movie's only witty line, "With friends like these, who needs enemas?"
Coproducer-writer-director Alan Parker (Mississippi Burning) shows so little imagination that he can't think of anything better for the talented Carvey to do than hurl boxes of human feces at guests of the spa. Hopkins overplays wildly as the senior Kellogg, depending on a big overbite and a bad American accent. Hopkins also has to embody all Kellogg's crackpot ideas, which included obsessive antipathy to meat and sex.
Fonda and Broderick are a married couple who stay at the spa to, among other things, recover from the death of their child (now there's a comedy premise). Cusack is in town to start a cereal company to rival Kellogg's. The appealing young Lind, as the spa's star nurse, at least is getting some exposure; she may be the only actor to profit from this Road. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Meany, as a sexologist, has to withstand both a masturbation scene and a womb-manipulation scene; he seems ill-suited to chaotic comedy.
But then so does Parker. He lets things unravel altogether at the movie's close. And what song is playing on the soundtrack as a building is burning down? Why, it's "(There'll Be) A Hot Time in the Old Town (Tonight)," of course. (R)
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