All-star cast fails to redeem film

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Crass humor can sometimes comically undermine an otherwise sophisticated movie. But when it's used in excess, with no purpose other than to giggle at its own grossness, crudity is simply repellant.

Alan Parker's new film, "The Road to Wellville," is a study in excessive rankness and is nothing more than a compilation of moronic school yard humor.

The story is set in Michigan in 1907 and is based on a real life health spa, Battle Creek Sanitarium, run by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.

Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins) was an eccentric inventor, surgeon, and crusader for vegetarianism and sexual abstinence. He was the inventor of the corn flake.

The movie follows a married couple, Will and Eleanor Lightbody (Matthew Broderick and Bridget Fonda), who join the santitarium in order to grow healthy and improve their marriage.

Most of the movie details Will's exasperation at being forced to undergo strenuous machines and menacing instruments. The movie jokingly stresses the five-enemas-a-day routine, along with nonstop jokes about various forms of excretement and manure, farting, vomiting, spitting food, bloody meat, electrocution and other hilarious topics.

The subplot involves two shady entrepreneurs, Charles Ossining (John Cusack) and Goodloe Bender (Michael Lerner) who spend the entire movie trying to make cornflakes secretly based on Kellogg's recipe. There is a long sequence where they taste batch after batch of experimental flakes, spew them convulsively out of their mouths, and throw the flakes in a muddy pigsty.

Writer/director Alan Parker displays none of the comedic spunk of "The Commitments" or the engaging drama of "Mississippi Burning." Instead, he uses his characteristically bold editing to represent Will's fantasies as nude shots which are suddenly inserted of various girls who are actually clothed. While the editing is creative, the humor is not.

Anthony Hopkins' ("Howard's End") energetic performance is the only reasonably amusing element in the movie, though his character never seems more than a flamboyant caricature. He looks like a buck-toothed Colonel Sanders and orates inspirational rhetoric like Ronald Reagan.

In today's health-crazed culture replete with devices like Thighmasters, Battle Creek's Sanitarium could have provided a relevant satire. Unfortunately, "The Road to Wellville" is only concerned with its inane bowel-addicted humor and flamboyant crudity.

"The Road to Wellville" is at El Dorado, 745-1696.

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