by Brian McKay
I probably would have never watched this. Everything from the box cover to the title to the plot synopsis screamed "CHICK FLICK". The reason I did decide to watch it, though, was because it was done by Brad Anderson - director of one my favorite horror flicks, SESSION 9. On the commentary track for that film, he said that one of the reasons he did SESSION 9 is because he didn't want to become labeled as the "romantic comedy guy". Well, in Anderson's case, that may not be such a stigma, because he isn't half bad at it.One of the smartest moves that Anderson did was casting Hope Davis in the lead. She portrays Nurse Erin Castleton as a real person. One of the things that annoys me about all of these romantic comedies is that they always cast some uber-hot chick like Ashley Judd or Charlize Theron or J-Lo, and then expect us to buy the premise that these women can't get a date or find Mister Wonderful. Give me a fucking break. Either that, or it's some sappy Meg Ryanesque crapfest where the doe-eyed lead breaks down crying over something every fifteen minutes.
"Finally, a Chick-Flick for Guys."
Thankfully, we are subjected to neither here. Davis as Erin is attractive, though not a head-turner. She may feel bitter or sad after being dumped by her nutty activist boyfriend (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), but she is never prone to pointless hysterics. And while she can be something of an off-putting, chain-smoking bitch at times, she is still very likeable beneath. By the same token, the male lead Alan (Alan Gelfant) is not some stud-boy who is too busy making booty calls to recognize that the female lead is his one true love, blah blah blah. He's a 35 year old plumber who lives with his obnoxious brother, goes to school because he wants to be a marine biologist, volunteers at the local aquarium, and owes money to some mob guys for a "student loan" (why he didn't just go apply for a normal student loan I don't know - they're much more forgiving than the mob when you're late).
Sensing that Erin is maybe a bit depressed and jaded after being dumped, her meddling mother decides to take out a quarter-page personal ad in Erin's name. With a weary air of resignation, Erin decides to check the voicemail box for the ad, surprised to discover 60-something messages there. She begins calling them back, resulting in one of the funniest montages of pathetic guys ever seen, as she calls, then meets, one after the other. All of them are obnoxious losers, of course - including Alan's brother and his two idiotic friends who decide to respond to the ad on a bet, in order to see "who can score first" (don't worry, she gets back at them).
Meanwhile, Alan has to deal with the mob guys, who want him to sabotage the aquarium's plans for expansion because they want the land to build a funeral home. He also spends a surprising amount of time deflecting the advances of a perky, slutty young co-ed (okay, she's not very smart, and far from loyal, but surely a hard workin' plumber man must have NEEDS). Alan and Erin constantly come this close to meeting, only to be distracted or diverted before one can truly notice the other. Despite bucking some conventions, however, this is still a romantic comedy, and it's obvious from the first ten minutes that these two are soul mates who have not yet been made aware of eachother's existence.
Drive-In Triple Feature Chick Flick Picks for Next Stop Wonderland:
(puts pinkie up to mouth in Doctor Evil fashion)
I don't know. I don't do chick flicks. Bridget Jones' Diary was okay. Maybe One Fine Day. Ask a chick.Occasionally NEXT STOP WONDERLAND meanders, and a couple of the subplots are fairly dumb and far-fetched (like the whole "aquarium sabotage" thing). However, it is mostly funny and engaging, and the leads are likeable despite (or perhaps because of) their personality quirks. While I wouldn't say it revolutionizes the chick flick, it's certainly more clever and endurable than most of them.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=52&reviewer=258
originally posted: 11/20/02 11:31:21