The Road to Wellville (1994)

The breakfast cereal is such a staple of life that it is hard to imagine it came from health and well-being fashions in the 20th century. Yes, like many sugar-loaded titans of food, health was the prime motivation for the creation of the delicious staple. Kellogg was more focused on saving the body and perfect his healthcare regimen than revolutionising a mealtime. In 1994, a film poked slapstick merriment at the bizarre health practices and entrepreneurial dash to cash in on this craze, in The Road to Wellville.

The dawn of a food empire!

The famed Doctor Kellogg has attracted media attention after his Cornflakes have become a national fascination. Separated from his brother who wanted to focus more on the cereal side, hosting his retreat on the river in Battle Creek, We follow a young couple, exposed to a wave of brand-new ideas that could repair their marriage, but the celibacy and the separation of the retreat might be more trouble than its worth. Kellogg must also deal with a prodigal son, making a chaotic return. Meanwhile, a young man, Charles Ossining, attempting to track the progress of his mother’s investment is drawn in the madcap world of cereal invention. Hilarity and hijinks ensue on The Road to Wellville.

The health retreat isn’t all that bad for Will.

The film spends most of its time at the sanitarium where an assortment of eccentric treatments and patients inhabit. While here, we get snippets of Kellogg’s philosophy as he expunges catchy soundbites describing the clean-living movement. But also demonstrates the doctor’s attempts at making through grandiose devices, one notable example electrocutes the body, apparently invigorating, but I certainly would not want to risk it. They mainly serve the backdrop to the rocky relationship drama between Mathew Broderick’s Will Lightbody and Bridget Fonda’s Elanor. Doubly so with Will’s fascination with his nurse. Kellogg’s adopted son makes a prodigal return, played by comedian Dana Carvey, and it is through his character’s interaction we get to see the strengths of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Kellogg.

Some of the health remedies are more hazardous than helpful, they’re mainly hilarious though!

I like how the film manages to capture the period of which it is set, not just in locations or clothing but in its feeling also. Particularity with John Cusack’s Charles and his attempts to break into the cereal business, with little success for his mother’s investment, resulting in some outlandish schemes. Even towards the end some of the antics he is put through feels like an era-appropriate silent film. But feels of its time with its wild humour and undercurrent of a societal paradigm shift, especially with the arrival of rival health pioneer Dr Badger played by Colm Meany.

Cusack and Lerner antics outside the sanitarium are era appropriate escapades!

In its slice of 20th-century living, The Road to Wellville is as odd as the methods it celebrates, silly, ambitious and ultimately entertaining. It is a catch-all cure for the blues. Some big names engage with the outlandish antics with aplomb. The Road to Wellville feels just as rejuvenating to watch as the health claims prescribed. A month or two will seem like no time in the presence of such interesting company.

…Though you might lose your shirt…

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