Time Out New York Project: Issue #744/745, December 31, 2009–January 13, 2010
Dir. Joshua Goldin. 2009. R. 95mins. Matthew Broderick, Sanaa Lathan, Michael K. Williams.
It sounds worse when you describe it: Ben Singer (Broderick) is a failed children’s folksinger and all-around misanthrope who never misses a chance to point out how horrible the world is. After his Senegalese roommate and only friend, Ibu (Williams), falls into a diabetic coma, Ben meets Ibu’s free-spirited sister, Khadi (Lathan), who teaches him how to get his idealistic groove back. Several pot-addled conversations with the Man (Philip Baker Hall) — the actual oppress-’em-all “Man” — and one Magnolia-lite thunderstorm of fish later, and Ben’s back on the kids’ music circuit, a little happier and wiser. Have your eyes rolled back in your head enough?
Wonderful World isn’t likely to temper such reactions, but credit Broderick and the cast for putting across the fey Indiewood bullcrap with committed, nearly convincing effort. The film’s best scene features Khadi and Ben’s estranged daughter (Jodelle Ferland) performing an impromptu amateur dance number seemingly inspired by the “Everything Old Is New Again” sequence from All That Jazz. And though it’s inevitable that Ben and Khadi will fall for each other, there’s something touching in the way Broderick’s middle-age paunch contrasts with Lathan’s robust sexiness. Their self-assured physicality propels them above and beyond Joshua Goldin’s subpar script.—Keith Uhlich