A scene from 'Next Stop Wonderland'
Courtesy Photo
*** stars 96 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, August 28, 1998
Directed by Brad Anderson

Starring Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Callie Thorne, Holland Taylor, Jose Zuniga, Robert Klein, Cara Buono, Ken Cheeseman

Read our interview with Hope Davis Interview with actress Hope Davis


Subtle facial expressions throughout need as much screen as possible, so if your TV isn't 40" get the pan & scan so you don't miss anything.
No special features on this disc, but the movie is worth owning so don't let that stop you!


1.85:1 ratio; Dolby 5.1



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Sardonic romance 'Wonderland' laughs at fate and the nightmare of blind dates

By Rob Blackwelder

"Next Stop, Wonderland" is a romantic comedy for every disillusioned soul who hangs on desperately to that kernel of faith in the theory of fate.

It's one of those movies in which the inevitable couple cross paths throughout, never quite managing to meet until the last reel. While it's not a new idea, I hesitate to compare it to something like "Sleepless in Seattle" because "Wonderland" is infinitely more clever.

Keeping the stars apart is only one part of the plot, which follows a 30-ish, melancholy nurse played by the delightfully put-upon Hope Davis ("The Daytrippers"), through a series of bad dates on the road to Mr. Right.

The first scene in the movie sets the sardonic tone. Erin (Davis) comes home to her Boston flat and catches her boyfriend moving out on her, leaving only a videotape (but no VCR) to explain "the six reasons I think our relationship is doomed."

Erin is a girl who has a hard time enjoying herself, she's been in the dumps for so long, so for the time being she's content to bottom out, moping around and lying to herself that she likes to be alone.

To make matters worse, her tenacious, air-kissing, busybody mother (played with aplomb by Holland Taylor) gets wind of her single status and cheekily places a personal ad on her daughter's behalf, describing the morose Erin as "frisky and carefree." (In mom's view a woman can't be happy without a man.)

Begrudgingly, she listens to the messages (we see a comic montage of the callers, most of whom look frighteningly pathetic) and surprises herself by answering a few, begetting a waggish series of very bad first dates in which Erin tells her suitors point blank what's wrong with them.

"My mom placed the ad," she says to one defensive fellow. To which he responds, "Oh, yeah? What's her number?"

Meanwhile, the apparent destiny man Alan (Alan Gelfant, "The Crow: City of Angels"), an aspiring marine biologist starting school late in life after earning tuition as a plumber, also has his fair share of troubles, including gambling debts and a bunch of buddies who decide to pick a personal ad at random and place bets on who can score with her first. You see what's coming, although Alan declines to participate (he's a nice guy, you know).

The two stories crisscross in a number of other ways as well, and writer-director Brad Anderson's script even calls fate into question in the second act when both Erin and Alan have promising romantic prospects. A sexpot coed classmate has the hots for Alan, and Erin meets a disarmingly winsome Brazilian musicologist who fall for her pretty hard. (This theme gives director Brad Anderson an excuse to punctuate the film with a terrific, spirited samba and Bossa Nova soundtrack).

Although it was written by two men, Anderson and Lyn Vaus, who plays one of Erin's bad dates, "Wonderland" has a distinctively feminine tilt that Davis actualizes with a subtly balanced performance of wearied cynicism and hesitant hope that any woman (and most men) will identify with immediately.

In fact, it's Davis' inherent endearingness mixed with bitterness which makes the movie soar -- along with a few small but ingenious touches from Anderson and Vaus' script, like the scene after the opening break-up in which Erin scrapes all her environmentalist ex's Greenpeace bumper stickers off her fridge with heartbroken umbrage.

Ultimately, comparisons to "Sleepless" may be inevitable, but "Next Stop, Wonderland" eschews the silly saccharine sweetness of that Meg Ryan movie. It's not a Kleenex picture. It's a smart story first and foremost, so the charming romance feels like a bonus.

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