The Road to Wellville (1994) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

The Road to Wellville (1994) has finally come to DVD, but, unfortunately, in a featureless, pan-n-scan 4/3 version. The good news is that the image quality is excellent.

The film is set in turn of the century Battle Creek, Michigan, and is a spoof of health spas and fads. Bridget Fonda and husband Matthew Broderick come to the resort run by Dr. Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins) for the cure. The spa is all about cleansing the colon, and treatment includes 5 high colonics per day, a strict vegetarian diet, no smoking or drinking, and absolutely no sex. Broderick is deemed critical, and is assigned to the care of top nurse Graves (Traci Lind). He becomes immediately smitten both by her, and the woman across the hall (Lara Flynn Boyle).

In a parallel story, John Cusack is in town to start a cereal company, and brings in Kellogg's black sheep adopted son (Dana Carvey) as a partner, to take advantage of the name recognition.

While Broderick is romancing Boyle and Lind, Fonda is lured to some other fringe treatment specialists, and finally goes to Dr. Spitzvogel, who "manipulates her womb." Fonda shows breasts, first in a milk bath, then, near the end, while having her womb manipulated on a picnic. Lind shows buns and breasts when Broderick mentally undresses her, and exposes a nipple in a great down-blouse. Boyle shows breasts being mentally undressed, then later as a prelude to sex with Broderick.

The cinematography is lovely, and was nominated for one international award.


  • Camryn Manheim shows her bum in good light.
  • Lara Flynn Boyle shows her breasts in two different scenes in good light.
  • Traci Lind shows her bum and one breast, also in good light, then exposes a nipple in a down-blouse.
  • Bridget Fonda shows her nipples in a well-lit bubble bath.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

I guess Tuna and I would have to say that the 5.1 IMDb rating for this movie is too low. We both liked it more than that score would have indicated to us. It ain't Citizen Fookin' Kane. Some of the minor characters are emphasized and/or dropped for no reason, the humor can be juvenile and repetitive, and the plot and characterization sometimes seem sloppily constructed, but the film has plenty of positives.

  • It stars some great performers: Cusack, Broderick, Hopkins.
  • It has a richly-imagined alternate universe - portraying Battle Creek, Michigan at the turn of the century as a bustling goldrush kind of place, with 130 competing cornflake companies, every conceivable kid of charlatan, and the world's most famous health spa.
  • It's a bizarre, often highly accurate spoof of America's obsession with health fads and instant cure contraptions.
  • It is beautifully photographed.
  • It has some lovely nudity in great light.

Although the story told in the film is crazy hyperbole, it does have some limited basis in reality. There is an interesting comment at IMDb about this. Here is what the man says:

At the time of the release of "The Road to Wellville," I was the opinion page editor for the Battle Creek, Michigan, newspaper. I also had written a history of the life of work of Will K. Kellogg, founder of Kellogg Co. and brother of the film's hero, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (played by Anthony Hopkins). I had read and published a review of T.C. Boyle's novel (which I enjoyed, but questioned for its historical inaccuracies). So I suppose I was a natural to be asked by the newspaper and to review the film. As a result, I was in the front row of an audience of Battle Creek residents during the "Michigan premiere" of the movie. To put it mildly, the audience was at times shocked and bemused, but overall they were pretty entertained. The most blatant fictions that should be corrected are that the old Battle Creek Sanitarium was *not* a coed facility, that female nurses *never* gave enemas to male guests (or males to females, for that matter), that Dr. Kellogg did *not* die while diving in his 70s (he was 91 and died in bed), and that George Kellogg -- a very real human being -- was *not* a wayward drunk. In fact, the only blatantly factual material is stated in the first five minutes, and then the film becomes fiction. Much is changed from the original novel (particularly how Dr. Kellogg deals with George), and the serio-comic tone of the novel is transformed into stupid, juvenile titillation over bodily fluids and sexual escapades. However, the movie *does* capture the mood and atmosphere of Battle Creek in the first few years of the 20th century -- the charlatans, the fly-by-nights and the ne'er-do-wells are shown for pretty much what they were. The faddists who took advantage of sincere Seventh-day Adventist health doctrine are extremely well depicted, as are the gullible "patients." And -- despite the phony rabbit teeth -- Hopkins is awfully fun as Dr. Kellogg. The satire is well-taken and in many ways successful. Overall, I recommend reading Boyle's novel over seeing this film, but I also recommend reading a serious history of the cereal industry and its antecedents before believing a word of the fictional creations in both the movie and the novel.

The people familiar with the novel say that writer/director Alan Parker botched an opportunity to create a hilarious and scatological masterpiece. I don't know. I've never read the book, though I now plan to! But I enjoyed the movie in a retro-SciFi kind of way, and got a few laughs out of it.

I felt that they were trying too hard with the humor, and that the film just wasn't as funny as it seemed to think it was, but my significant other (who is a naturalized citizen) laughed non-stop, and thought it was a spot-on portrayal of Americans and their obsessions. Her comment "it doesn't seem like America changed much in that past century".

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: a bomb. despite excellent production values, big stars, and a respected director,


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Tuna says, "I enjoy this film, which never takes itself seriously, but not everyone will agree. The proper score is C." Scoop agrees, and is possibly even leaning toward a C+. 

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