The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: The Road To Wellville

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but that can’t always be true. Like, sure, sometimes people have good intentions but they lose sight of other very important moral considerations and then, whoops, you’re in hell! But other times it seems like the road to hell must be paved with awful intentions. Just really terrible, nightmarish intentions. It’s a very short road, in that case. Direct route. And then SOMETIMES it seems like the road to hell must be paved with absolutely no intentions at all. That’s the road that the crew of the Event Horizon took, for example. They didn’t know that the experimental Gravity Drive would take the ship to some kind of Hell Dimension and condemn them all to an eternity of suffering, but there they were, shrieking and pulling their skin off with their fingers.

I’m not sure which road The Road to Wellville took, or which road it is? Admittedly, I am starting to get tangled up in my metaphor. The point is: this movie sucks, like how hell probably sucks.

The Road to Wellville is based on a novel of the same name by T. Coraghessan Boyle, who by all accounts is a wonderful writer. I don’t know whether or not that is true because outside of maybe one or two short stories in the New Yorker (that’s right, the NEW YORKER!) I haven’t really read anything by him. So let us just assume that the book on which the movie is based is wonderful and hilarious. Or not. In fact, no, let us not assume anything about the book. And in that vein let us not even talk about the book. But to understand the movie one has to understand at the very least that it was based on a book, because I have no idea how else to make sense of how this movie ever got made. It is a fictional account of a historical figure, John Harvey Kellogg, who was turn of the 20th century physician in Battle Creek, Michigan, who ran a Sanitarium based on his unique ideas about health, and who also invented cornflakes with his brother, Will. The movie centers around a married couple, the Lightbodys, played by Matthew Broderick and Bridget Fonda, who come to the Sanitarium in an effort to cure Mr. Lightbody’s chronic constipation, and Bridget Fonda’s…being married to someone with chronic constipation. What follows is two hours of Matthew Broderick getting enemas and Bridget Fonda getting fisted and Anthony Hopkins (who plays Dr. Kellogg) doing his best Colonel Sanders impersonation. Meanwhile, there is also a plotline about John Cusack who is a young would-be entrepreneur who wants to start his own line of cornflakes and goes into business with a con artist and also Dana Carvey, who plays Dr. Kellogg’s estranged, possibly-retarded son. In the end, the Sanitarium burns to the ground, Dr. Kellogg and Dan Carvey love each other again, Matthew Broderick and Bridget Fonda stop getting enemas and fisted, and John Cusack invents Coca Cola.


Digression: have you ever walked into, say, a clothing store, and everything in the clothing store is so hideous and awful to you that it almost feels like it must be some kind of a joke? Like obviously people would not actually wear these clothes? An Ed Hardy clothing store, for example. But despite the store being completely counter to your own sense of the world, you also recognize that the store is entirely consistent. That whoever put the store together had a personal vision of their own for how things should be, and the store clearly and effectively reflected that vision? And so you find yourself at odds because it’s not like they just fucked up or didn’t put any effort into this thing: it’s just that everything that they believe and everything that they want is in direct and ACTIVE opposition to what you believe and want? Have you ever walked into one of those stores?


Fart jokes? Bowel movement jokes? Masticate/masturbate jokes? Capped off with a pratfall? It’s like The Magic Mountain meets Paul Blart: Sanitarium Cop. And the whole movie is a variation on this. Endless discussions of people farting and pooping and getting erections interspersed with long tracking shots of butts. I’ve never seen a movie more obsessed with human excrement, and I have seen Salo.

Here is another classic scene (NSFW):

Really? This many talented people got together in the same room and agreed that this was something they thought should exist? And someone in Hollywood was like “here are the millions of dollars to make sure that happens”? Perhaps John Harvey Kellogg was not the only one with an insane philosophy of how to do things.

This movie did have the kid from Gummo in it. He even had the trademark Gummo cowlick:

But even the Gummo kid could not save this movie (the way that he is usually capable of saving movies? In Hollywood they call him “The Cleaner”).

Lots of beliefs from the past are funny. The Earth is flat? Lots Of Love! No it isn’t! Haha, stupid people from the past. Go to school! But this movie isn’t a documentary. It’s a fictionalized account. And in either case, it is selective in what it chooses to focus on (poop) and what it thinks is funny (poop, also fisting). To make matters worse, it’s clearly targeted at an “educated” audience who will cover their mouths with their tophats because laughing is for peasants. (Just kidding, there is no laughing at this movie.) And what’s even stranger is that ultimately, in the end, Dr. Kellogg’s ridiculous methods work. Sort of. Matthew Broderick stops having constipation (yay!) and Bridget Fonda stops not wanting to fuck him (awesome!). Whatever.

The best part of the movie is the post-script follow up with the characters after the Sanitarium burns down. Because we wouldn’t want to leave this delightful, shit-covered world without knowing what happens to all these hilarious and fascinating characters that means it’s about to be over.

Congratulations, The Road To Wellville. Top (Bottom?) 5 Worst Movies.

Next week: Le Divorce. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.