Road to Wellville, The: Alan Parker’s Satirical Misfire

Alan Parker’s adaptation of the comic novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Road to Wellville, is a sharply uneven picture, defined by hit-and-miss humor.

It tries to cash in on the original subject as well as the stature and range of Anthony Hopkins, who was riding high at the time.

Nominally, it’s the story of  real-life Corn Flakes inventor Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (played by Hopkins), an eccentric health “expert” in the early 20th century.

Convinced of the benefits of holistic health practices (mostly involving irrigation of the bowels and colon),  Kellogg opens a spa in Battle Creek, Michigan that attracts the attention of the well-to-do of his time, including Will (Matthew Broderick) and Eleanor Lightbody (Bridget Fonda).

A young couple with sexual and  marital problems, the Lightbodys aren’t helped much by the forced separation of sexes at Kellogg’s sanitarium, and the situation is further exacerbated by  Will’s obliging nurse (Traci Lind) and Eleanor’s encounters with a group of  German sex therapists.

The spa is populated by colorful characters, including Charles Ossining (John Cusack), an  ambitious con man who sees a fortune in Kellogg’s cereal, and the unwashed,
cretinous George Kellogg (Dana Carvey), one of the doctor’s several dozen adopted children.

A spoof as obsessed as its protagonist with its scatological subject matter, The Road to Wellville was an unusual effort for  British filmmaker Alan Parker, known for darker dramatic material and musicals. .