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The Road to Wellville lacks strong characters, plot

The Road to Wellville

Written and directed by Alan Parker.

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, Bridget Fonda, John Cusack, and Dana Carvey .

Loews Nickelodeon.

By Carrie Perlman

The Road to Wellville is a film made for anyone whose sense of humor leans towards the scatological. Set at Doctor J.H. Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium (affectionately called "The San" by its residents), this film contains an endless supply of fecal jokes. There are slogans such as "Clean Bowels Make for Clean Thoughts" posted around the main dining hall, and the prevalent routine at this "Temple of Health" is an enema a day.

The film starts off amusingly enough with large groups of unattractive people romping around the San in their bloomers performing ridiculous exercises and singing cheerful songs about their health. The guests of the San are subjected to a hair-brained but very funny health regimen. However, this gimmick for laughs soon wears off and there is not much of a plot to carry the film once the humor gets old.

There are three different stories, with minimal connections to one another, followed throughout the film. Will Lightbody (Matthew Broderick) is ill so his wife Eleanor (Bridget Fonda) brings him to the San to recover, and to solve their marital problems. Anthony Hopkins plays the spa's owner, Dr. Kellogg, who is plagued by the untimely reappearance of his crazed, adopted son George (Dana Carvey).

And finally there is Charles Ossining (John Cusack), a less-than-savvy businessman who has lost his aunt's money in a scheme to challenge Mr. Kellogg with a new brand of corn flakes. Unfortunately, these plot lines are neither terribly interesting nor well-developed.

As the Lightbodys are assigned separate rooms, the San initially facilitates their infidelities rather than help strengthen their marriage. Matthew Broderick manages to make the best of his role. Initially overwhelmed by the separation from his wife and the routines of the San, Broderick makes the character appealing as he learns to enjoy the place, pursuing both the sickly Ida (Lara Flynn Boyle) who lives across the hall and the attractive Nurse Irene Graves (Traci Lind) who administers his enemas.

Bridget Fonda, on the other hand, does not fare as well in her portrayal of Eleanor. Eleanor departs from Dr. Kellogg's belief that sex drains the body of vital fluids. As she begins to explore her sexuality with Dr. Spitzvogel's therapeutic massages, the character should be bold and shocking, but Fonda continues to play her as weak and helpless.

Anthony Hopkins' character is the straight-man of the movie. Despite all the chaos surrounding him, Dr. Kellogg is almost as rigid as the butler that Hopkins played in Remains of the Day. It's not his fault that this character does not steal the laughs in this film. Dana Carvey is humorous as Kellogg's down-and-out buffoon of a son George, but it is the scenes in which George as a young boy disobeys his father that are some of the film's funniest. John Cusack's character is also here for comic relief; but, although his slapstick scenes gets a chuckle now and then, they rarely get a guffaw.

Ultimately, the script for The Road to Wellville is at fault. On the whole, the actors do the best they can with this material, but there is not much to work with. Without a good plot or interesting characters, the pretty location and the bathroom humor can't support the film on their own.