on October 26, 2000
This movie is an unexpected gem. I have just finished watching it for the 6th time, and I am still in awe of its subtle humour and the empathy with which it depicts all its characters.
The only thing I don't like about this video is its misleading cover. Hope Davis perches coyly atop a subway train, slit skirt revealing plenty of thigh and low-cut top framing lotsa cleavage. A strappy sandal dangles from one foot. But in fact, one of the myriad beauties of this film is that Erin (deftly played by Davis) is not a frisky, flirtatious kind of gal, and never appears in any outfit more revealing than a nubby turtleck and jeans. Erin is a sensitive soul who has been in pain ever since the death of her beloved father, and she masks her true nature with a prickly veneer. She wants to fall in love but fights it every step of the way.
The cover of the video implies yet another dumb, cutesie comedy with another giggly, adorable heroine (you know... the "You've got Mail" variety) But the movie inside is rich, delicate and highly intelligent. Don't let the packaging fool you.
on May 31, 2000
Do we really need another soppy romantic comedy about thirtysomethings in the big city? Watching NEXT STOP WONDERLAND, the answer is "Yes." As I prepared to be depressed beyond reason by two wonderful people ending up alone (and pleasantly disappointed), I ended up laughing unexpectedly at the humor cropping up in odd places. Alan Gelfant is charming and sympathetic in his hilarious aquarium-heist subplot. Philip Seymour Hoffman (as in every movie he's done) takes a character that could have been a bland stereotype and puts his own indelible stamp on it. H. Jon Benjamin (the slacker, layabout son Ben from the "Dr. Katz" show) is hilarious as one of Erin's loutish blind dates. Holland Taylor brings the frigid high-class sexiness of Judge Roberta Kittleson from "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal" to her role as Erin's mother. Roger Rees is hilarious and sleazy as the biology teacher. It's also refreshing that the movie takes place in Boston and not in New York (memories of YOU'VE GOT MAIL). The main attraction, of course, is Davis, who incarnates Erin better than most actresses could have dreamed of doing. Even though it's not in theatres anymore, this is an outstanding date movie (practically as good as FLIRTING).
on August 25, 1999
This movie truly left its mark on me. It shows the tedium and courage it takes to sort through the frogs to get to the prince, and how important it is to be at peace with yourself in order to be able to be with someone else. Hope Davis and Alan Gelfant do such a wonderful job at showing how being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. Roger Rees plays a small role but shines, as always. When you are feeling lonely and hopeless about love, this movie will renew your faith.
on January 10, 2013
Love this indie movie.
This review is solely in regard to the QUALITY of this newest (2011/2012) DVD release. As I own the previous release from the same studio and have compared them.
In comparison, this newest DVD is 1) four full minutes shorter than the other version, which my DVD player's graphics proved after checking both DVDs on it, and which also can be seen in the 92-minute running time printed on the package of this newest version vs. the 96 minutes printed on the package of the older version (I haven't checked WHERE the footage is missing, but it's definitely not in the opening or closing credits being expanded or reduced, but elsewhere).
2) This new DVD had 10 haphazardly started/ended "chapters" which start in really odd places--always in the middle of scenes! And on the disc's menu, believe it or not, they are listed merely as "Chapter One", "Chapter Two," etc., with NO other info-- no names for the scenes, no pictures . . . Whereas on the preferred older DVD release, the menu for the chapters is a very fancy one, in the form of a train line map, and with a name for each chapter and a photo for each chapter. FAR better than the new 2011/2012 DVD release. The older DVD's chapters also start and end in logical, proper places.
The film's print is identical on the old and the new DVDs, also it's the same aspect ratio: 1.85:1 and enhanced for 16:9 TVs. It's sad that no improvement was made to the picture quality, but to be fair, it was excellent on both old and new versions, despite a bit of tiny squigglies in the backgrounds of both if one pays close attention.
Even the older clamshell case is hard, whereas the new one's is soft, despite also being plastic.
Buy the OLDER version of this DVD release, which is better in ALL ways.
on March 27, 2002
Next Stop Wonderland is a charming romantic comedy from independent director, Brad Anderson. This is his most accessible work to date. While I can use the word 'slight' in describing it, I must quickly add that the same adjective describes most such movies. You Have Mail, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Wedding Singer and many other big budget affairs are all entertaining, diverting and funny. Earthshaking they are not.
An independent movie like this one doesn't have the budget for the gloss and glamor of its big sisters. I personally see this as a refreshing change of pace, because as much as I enjoy the Meg Ryans, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diazes of Tinseltown, I can't transfer their screen behavior to real life.
The sparkling yet down to earth Hope Davis plays Erin, who returns to her downtown Boston home one afternoon to find her activist boyfriend loading up his car. He's leaving her. She is devastated. Being a very intelligent young woman, she supposes that men aren't worth the trouble and that being alone has its rewards. Even as she arrives at these conclusions, her expressive face shows plenty of doubt.
Across town lives Alan [Alan Gelfant], an immensely likable guy in his mid-thirties, who has gone back to school to study marine biology. He's currently a plumber like his Dad, but has come to believe he can improve upon his working-class life. He is a volunteer at the Boston Aquarium. Water, in particular the sea, plays an important part in the movie. Fish do also. You might say that a blowfish named Puff is one of the movie's stars.
One day Erin's ditzy, wealthy mother places an ad in the personal section of a Boston newspaper. The problem with this is that it's about Erin. At first outraged, Erin soon finds herself unable to resist listening to the messages that have been lefted in her voice mail. She decides to respond to a few. One of these involves Alan's brother. The fun has begun.
Wonderland plays out very much like Sleepless in Seattle, because our two lonely hearts keep coming very close to meeting - but don't - for much of the film.
The director and the stars are very assured and professional. They keep the humor rather dry. This is not intended to be a broad comedy. In fact, it explores a philosophical question. Does fate really have a hand in the events in our lives, or do things happen in a random way?
Next Stop Wonderland is the type of movie that plays especially well in DVD format. It's not a larger than life vehicle, so a big theater screen doesn't add much to it.
Hope Davis has become what I like to call a hidden success. Her movies don't make a gazillion dollars at the box office and you'd probably hardly notice her if she passed you on the street. But what she does -- and does well -- is create lovable and memorable characters on celluloid. Most recently she was paired with Greg Kinnear in THE MATADOR, a role in which her underused talents still shone brightly with every scene she appeared.
I decided to watch NEXT STOP WONDERLAND for the sole purpose of checking to see how well Mrs. Davis stood as an actress in a starring role. I wasn't disappointed.
The story is that of a nurse named Erin (Davis) who comes home one day to find her boyfriend, Sean (Philip Seymour Hoffman, CAPOTE) moving out. Angry and spiteful, Erin quickly decides that being alone is okay. In fact, she firmly entrenches the philosophy of aloneness within herself ...until...
Erin's domineering mother, Piper (Holland Taylor, THE TRUMAN SHOW), discovers her daughter's recent break-up and places a personals ad in the newspaper for her. Initially upset by this, Erin eventually decides to take on the task of dismissing all of the loathsome men who try to court her. The comedy here is striking and philosophical as the men do whatever they can to get into her pants only to be rebuffed by Erin's formidable intellect.
On the other side of Boston (where this story takes place) we find Alan Monteiro (Alan Gelfant, TURN OF FAITH), a plumber turned marine biologist who volunteers at the local aquarium. He's struggling with debt, school (still working on his biology degree), and an aggressive younger classman who's infatuated with him. Strangely enough, too, is the fact that his brother is one of the guy's trying to bed Erin via the personals ad.
As Erin and Alan mingle within their own circles, they come close to orbiting one another but never quite make contact. Brief glances, telephone calls that pass them by, invitations to the same restaurant parties, the two seemed destined to fall into one another's arms ...yet these encounters slip past. It's wonderfully frustrating to watch, and these "almost encounters" are never forced.
But in the end, director Brad Anderson doesn't let us down. Serendipity intervenes and the two strangers end up hugging one another on a transit train after a strange set of circumstances pulls them together.
Romantic comedies are okay if done right. You know the type that kind of make you feel, eh, just okay; You've Got Mail, Pretty Woman, Sleepless In Seattle. But this flick gives you more for less. Made as an independent film on a $1 million budget, Hope Davis' excellent acting and the perfect script make for some thought-provoking and downright funny moments. While those other RomComs I mentioned have a basic "feel-good" to them, NEXT STOP WONDERLAND has much more. The philosophy, romance, and comedy all build to a very satisfying conclusion and one that will invite discussions about the probabilities of fate versus happenstance.
If ever there was a movie I had a soft spot for, it would be Next Stop Wonderland. If I'm down or need to relax or just want to sit back and see familiar sights from the time of the movie, I pop this in and immediately feel better. It's like therapy to me.
In some ways it's tough for me to really define the movie or the characters & I don't want to give it all away. Erin struggles to overcome some of the losses in her life and to find a way to move forward while Alan is an individual who fights to fulfill his dreams, which he figured out later on in his own life, while maintaining his integrity. But the movie is so full of coincidences and near misses for these two very honest individuals that you are left waiting for the moment when they come together, and when they do, it is actually just the right time. From the dating service, to Alan seeing her while in the fish tank, to the photographer putting her in the picture... there are so many things in this movie that you may have missed after seeing it the first time that you'll catch the next few times around.
I definitely recommend the movie. I love it. Can't say that enough. And it takes place in Boston, and you get a good view of some of the sights and places in Boston. I've actually been the the Burren & still sometimes hang out in the Somerville/Cambridge area. And the New England Aquarium really has been renovated since then (1998) and is off of the Blue Line (the Wonderland stop is actually the last stop on the Blue Line - there's your symbolism!).
I also love the movie because the soundtrack, done by Claudio Ragazzi and Arto Lindsay, is nothing short of stellar. The original score perfectly fits the mood of the CD for both characters and other than the classic Bossa Nova by Elis Regina and Astrud Gilberto, you have some very nice works by Bebel Gilberto (daughter of Miucha and Joao Gilberto) before her feature album came out, that I haven't seen her release elsewhere, including a sensational version of "One Note Samba/Girl from Ipanema" with the amazing work of Vinicius Cantuaria.
on July 13, 1999
Well, not really. But I did see it in the middle of a broken heart, and it made me laugh, cry, and believe in love again more than any film I've ever seen. Not only is it refreshingly original; it's the kind of flick you really can see over and over again and catch something new every time. (Example--it took me four viewings to figure out the parallels between how Erin's parents meet, and the scene at the end with the Brazilian guy on the plane.) And the music! Oh, the music! Buy the video (once it's cheaper, obviously), get the soundtrack NOW, and get totally swept away. Someone told me once that she didn't like it 'cause the so-called "independent" heroine still had to be with someone to be happy. But what's great about Hope Davis is that you (or at least I) truly believe that even if her character hadn't found a significant other, she still would've been content with her life--a lesson a lot of us should learn.
The past two decades have seen a slew of alleged romantic comedies that are neither, just a formulaic collection of cliches & crudity. What a pleasure, then, to realize that it's still possible to make a genuine romantic comedy with all the charm & wit that used to be found in such films! True, this film is now some 15+ years old; but it remains as fresh & delightful as the first time I saw it when it originally appeared.
An early film for Hope Davis, she shines in this story of a young woman who has pretty much sworn off finding a decent romantic partner after her relationship with an overly earnest political activist (a then-unknown Philip Seymour Hoffman) falls apart. Her too-helpful mother (the wonderful Holland Taylor) decides to fix that by placing a personal ad for her daughter in the local paper -- and the next thing she knows, there are 64 messages from a mixed bag of would-be suitors ... or is that the bottom of the bag?
At the same time, an aspiring marine biologist (Alan Gelfant) working in a Boston aquarium is trying to get his own life in order ... and it's equally frustrating & funny to see how our two leads keep missing each other by a fraction of a second throughout the film, as they're clearly perfect for each other. I'd call it "quirky" if not for the downside of the word, which can sometimes equal "thin & badly plotted" -- though that's not the case here.
If anything, the film has a somewhat wistful, melancholy undercurrent, one that asks questions about destiny (or the lack thereof), the possibility of finding meaningful love that'll stand the test of everyday life, and that elusive search for real depth in one's life. Our heroine's late father gave her good advice which the viewer should take to heart: "Try to contemplate one beautiful thing every day." How many of us do that? How many of us even consider the possibility?
I've found this to be a very rewatchable film over the years, one that's just as appealing & thoughtful on the 20th viewing as on the first. Why can't Hollywood learn from a film like this & rediscover the art of making romantic comedies that are for genuine grownups, not perpetual adolescents? Highly & happily recommended!
on August 6, 2014
This is a charmingly wise and funny film satirizing the opportunism and goofiness of the commercial dating scene, the sorrows stirred by fast-track romance, the rewards from tracking work you truly want to do, and the curve-balls thrown by random encounters that offer more than you ever thought you could gain through systematically planned intentions.
I had copied this on EP (long play) VHS tape several years back, and reviewing the tape on Augut 2nd, saw that it looked pretty scratchy on my 60" HDTV.
I felt pretty bad about that because I had invited some friends over to view it on August 8th.
On August 2nd I made haste to order it through a 3rd party at Amazon and made a special request to the 3rd party at "Lotsa Movies" to expedite the delivery by August 7th, if at all possible. (I had paid $2.00 beyond the regular rate to attempt facilitating that time period.)
--A lovely man named Cliff at "Lotsa Movies" responded to me with a remarkable e-mail to reassure me that he would do everything possible to get it to me via priority mail as well as check the tracking information to confirm delivery no later than August 7.
--All that attention to an unknown customer buying from his service a $5.99 VHS tape!!!
I cannot level enough thanks and praise upon this man and the "Lotsa Movies" outfit!
With full appreciation,