19th Century health guru Dr. Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the electric blanket, peanut butter and, of course, the cornflake is surrounded by fanatical patients, rivals and family worries.
Alan Parker's passion forstorytelling is consistently seen in films that possess his elegant visual sense and daring while always differing startlingly in subject, tone and style. Wellville is an outrageous and comic cautionary tale of foodies and health fanatics, a subject Parker plumbs with vigour but which has marginal appeal - even for a country that dotes on bodily function humour.
Adapted by Parker from a T.C. Boyle novel, the beautifully designed picture is an ambitious attempt to interweave three stories set in the strange world of 19th Century health guru Dr. Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the electric blanket, peanut butter and, of course, the cornflake. Kellogg, played hilariously by Anthony Hopkins as a buck-toothed, sanctimonious dynamo, reigns over a sanatorium where the fat and feeble are subjected to purification, clarification and pontification for the purging of their bowels and souls.
In one storyline, patients Eleanor and Will Lightbody (Fonda's zealous new woman and Matthew Broderick as her hapless hubby) have their troubled marriage further tested by a regime of colonics, "womb manipulation" and kinky tortures Torquemada would have admired. A second strand chronicles the misadventures of an entrepreneur (Cusak) exploiting the cereal boom with his new brand, Per-Fo. A third presents the combative relationship between the supremely eccentric Kellogg and his rebelliously filthy, ne'er-do-well adopted son (Dana Carvey impersonating a compost heap with limbs).
There in the problem lies, for the trio of plots provide some delightful flashes of wit and absurdity but never really unite into a purposeful or satisfactory whole. Most successfully viewed as a satirical celebration of a truly unique man, this emerges as, simultaneously, bizarrely classy and lavatorial, where any sophisticated ideas too often disappear into the repetitious poop, vomit and flatulence gags.
The trio of plots provide some delightful flashes of wit and absurdity but never really unite into a purposeful or satisfactory whole