Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick) is a failed children s folk singer, a career proofreader, a less-than-extraordinary weekend dad, and perhaps the most negative man alive. Floundering in all aspects of his
life, Ben's only comfort comes from regular chess games and friendly debates on game theory with his
Senegalese roommate Ibou (Michael Kenneth Williams). When Ibou is suddenly struck ill, Ben's pessimistic worldview seems unequivocally confirmed. It takes an extended visit from Ibou s sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) for Ben to realize that cynicism may be all a matter of perspective.
The title is ironic, of course, for according to Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick), the Wonderful World
is anything but. For Ben, life is basically "crap." The money mongers rule everything, "the man" is out to get us, "positive thinking" is a cruel joke, hope and human kindness are rumors. And he's got the wounds to prove it: an erstwhile children's musical entertainer, he was dropped by his label because his CD didn't sell. His current proofreading gig is a dead end. His ex-wife is a cold fish whose new man is a jerk. And even though his coworkers mock him ("the anti-everything," one calls him), his ex informs him that his daughter doesn't want to see him because he makes her feel bad, and his upbeat roommate (Michael K. Williams), a Senegalese immigrant, gently chides him ("Maybe you should look at the world as your friend," he says), Ben is resolute in his cynicism and unhappiness. But we know that will change--heck, the movie wouldn't exist otherwise--and that's exactly what happens when the roomie falls seriously ill and his beautiful sister, Khadi (Sanaa Lathan), arrives from Dakar to look after him. Much of what happens thereafter is predictable (shades of The Visitor
, with a bit more skin), but not all of it, which is writer-director Joshua Goldin's film's saving grace. Broderick is almost too decent and puppyish to play a misanthrope (he's not exactly Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets
), and he doesn't seem entirely comfortable with the role. Still, the fact that you could make a certain amount of this movie with a cookie cutter doesn't undermine it; Wonderful World
is no game changer, but it works. --Sam Graham