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Film / The Road to Wellville

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You'll never look at cornflakes the same way again.

A comedic 1994 film, directed by Alan Parker and based on a novel by American author T. Coraghessan Boyle, about some early twentieth-century visitors to a singular health sanitarium run by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the crankish iconoclastic inventor of the corn flake.

Kellogg is played by Anthony Hopkins, and in his own way is almost as scary as Hannibal Lecter. Also starring are Matthew Broderick, Bridget Fonda, John Cusack, and Dana Carvey.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare Will Lightbody suffers from these in the early parts of the novel due to a bad ulcer and being a recovering opium addict.
  • The Alcoholic: George is almost always drunk. Will is a recovering one, and relapses during his stay at the San.
  • Animal Wrongs Group:
    • Kind of. Doctor Kellogg thinks it's possible to make wolves to vegetarians. Then, he proudly presents a quite emaciated-looking wolf who doesn't want to eat meat anymore. (Even scarier if you wonder what he may have done to make the wolf abhor from eating meat.) This may have inspired a similar scene in Futurama.
    • In the novel, there's also a chimpanzee at the sanitarium that's been "conditioned" against eating meat in the same way, i.e. by offering it to them and then beating them until they cringe at the sight of it. During the climax, both of them escape and maul Dr. Kellogg.
  • Ass Shove
    Kellogg: Nurse Graves?
    Graves: Yes Doctor?
    Kellogg: Take Mister Lightbody immediately to the yogurt room and give him fifteen gallons.
    Lightbody: Oh no, no. I can't eat fifteen gallons of yogurt.
    Kellogg: Oh it's not going in that end, Mr. Lightbody.
  • Blatant Lies:
    Will: You, sir! You were masturbating!
    Badger: I was not! I was massaging my colon!
    Will: "Massaging your colon?!" I know where the colon is, and it doesn't stick up in the air!
  • Chew Toy: Poor Charles just can't catch a break.
  • Black Comedy: The movie runs on this.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer Dr. Kellogg himself, apparently.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Kellogg's assistant tries to politely warn him that George is throwing 'projectiles' at the sanitarium's guests. When Kellogg presses him as to what the 'projectiles' are, he panics and blurts out, "HE'S THROWING BOXES OF SHIT AT THE GUESTS!"
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: George Kellogg.
  • Con Artist: Bender, Bender, Bender. He spends all the Perfo company's seed money on his expensive hotel room, booze and fine dining, while convincing Charles that he needs to glad-hand to get support for the company. In the end, he disappears, leaving Charles with an empty coffer and his enormous hotel bill, and wanted by the police.
  • Death by Irony: Dr. Kellogg, dying of a heart attack while trying to prove how healthy he is (though only in the film-the real-life Kellogg lived into his 90s, as the book notes).
  • Even the Rats Won't Touch It: A group of somewhat shady businessmen try to produce a new brand of cornflakes, in competition with the very John Kellogg. Since their... products are anything but tasty, they feed them to some pigs. Who won't eat it either.
  • Henpecked Husband: Will Lightbody.
  • Herr Doctor Dr. Spizvogel unt seins Handhabung Therapeutic!
  • Hospital Hottie: Will hallucinates seeing nurse Irene Graves nude. Soon after, she gives him an erection while administering an enema.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Will after he watches Homer Pratez/Mr. Unpronounceable die in the Sinusoidal Bath.
    Will: A whiskey...make that a double! And a beer chaser!
  • The Insomniac: The novel and film both open with Will Lightbody suffering from severe insomnia due to his ulcer and opium withdrawal.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Kellogg does this in the climax of the novel when he drowns his rebellious adopted son George in a vat of macadamia nut butter.
    • Also in the film, when his associate dies of a heart attack in front of the sanitarium:
      Kellogg: ...You're dead, sir. Could you have picked a better place to die, Poult? Instead of out here in the street in front of everybody? Some poster child for biological living you are! [kicks him]
  • Large Ham Dr. Kellogg.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Mrs. Lightbody made her husband take a medicine against his lack of appetite. Which contained mostly alcohol, so he became The Alcoholic. Wanting to fix that problem, she found another medicine that promised to cure alcoholism. Which it did. Only problem: it contained opium.
    • Also Dr. Kellogg's 'treatment' for Ida Muntz's 'greensickness' - radium enemas. She dies of radiation poisoning.
  • No Sex Allowed: One of Dr. Kellogg's most vocal proscriptions. In the movie, and in Real Life, he condemned all forms of sexual intercourse, even for procreation, as being unhealthy.
  • Offscreen Karma: Bender blows all of the Perfo company's seed money that Charles' aunt loaned him on booze and fine dining, then skips town and leaves Charles holding the bag. It seems he got away with everything, but we later find out he was arrested off-screen in another state.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: While exaggerated for comedy, ultimately, pretty much everything about Dr. Kellogg and his sanitarium is based in fact. While in some ways an innovative physician who was ahead of his time (he was one of the first doctors to speak out about smoking being unhealthy), he was ultimately a complete and utter crackpot.
    • He really did make his patients undergo yogurt enemas. True, it was only half a pint of yogurt at a time rather than the 15 gallons in the movie. This was actually one of the less crazy things he did: yogurt bacteria is now known to be an essential component of gut flora and is used as a digestive aid to this very day (anything labeled "probiotic" probably contains it).
    • He really did hate meat eating and noted it as one of the multitude of things that caused "intestinal corruption", with others being alcohol, coffee, smoking and spicy food.
    • Dr. Kellogg sincerely believed 90% of all illnesses could be traced to "intestinal corruption", which could be treated with regular enemas (water and yogurt), eating bland foods and taking on plenty of fibre. The other 10% was caused by sex. Specifically, masturbation, though even procreational sex was bad for you. The result of this is that Dr. Kellogg advocated circumcising all boys or men he could get his hands on, as well as applying carbolic acid to the clitoris of any woman!
    • It's been suggested that Dr. Kellogg in real life was a klismaphiliac; sexually obsessed with enemas.
    • If eating bland, fiber-rich food and enemas failed to treat his patients, he would sometimes remove lengths of their small intestines!
    • The film's gag about Dr. Kellogg being so annoyed with his assistant dying in the sanitarium is actually a reference to the fact that the real-life Dr. Kellogg would never, ever knowingly take a patient who was actually seriously ill — the main reason most of his subjects actually improved was because they were generally suffering from only "the sicknesses of the rich"; obesity, overwork and boredom. Any seriously ill patients were quickly sent away once their condition was found out—one patient, famous African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, was sent home and died several months later, as Kellogg's treatment had done absolutely nothing to cure her sickness. Which was basically an infection from sores on her legs.
    • The Red Onion was an actual restaurant in Battle Creek that catered to disgruntled sanitarium patients eager for a meat and booze fix.
    • The Sanitarium's wacky-looking diagnosis and exercise machines actually existed.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The movie is Black Comedy all the way through, with a peppy, upbeat soundtrack played on kazoos.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the novel, Dr. Kellogg kills George.
  • Steampunk The medical gadgetry, theories and practices seem far-fetched enough to count.
  • The Unpronounceable. That's Mr. Unpronouncable.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Pretty much everyone. Let's run down the list, shall we? And keep in mind, these are just the main characters!
    • Will Lightbody - Recovering alcoholic and opium addict, non-recovering sex addict who lusts after his nurse and cheats on his wife with another patient.
    • Eleanor Lightbody - Health-obsessed harpy. The one who got Will addicted to both alcohol and opium in the first place; pays Dr. Spitzvogel to finger her and gets indignant when her husband calls her out.
    • Doctor Kellogg - Runs a sanitarium that kills people, but played for laughs. 'Nuff said.
    • George Kellogg - The good doctor's adopted son, has zero sense of hygiene, and pretty much his greatest goal in life is to disappoint dear old Dad.
    • Charles Ossining - Probably the most sympathetic, if only due to his Chew Toy status. Gets swindled out of his company's seed money by Goodloe Bender, Con Artist extraordinaire.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Endymion Hart-Jones.

Alternative Title(s): The Road To Wellville