Eleanor Lightbody (Bridget Fonda) and her husband Will (Matthew Broderick) travel to the Battle Creek Sanitarium for the cure. On the train, they meet Charlie Ossining (John Cusak) who hopes to make his fortune in the booming breakfast food industry. The san is run on strict rules of vegetarianism and sexual abstinence by John Harvey Kellogg (Anthony Hopkins), inventor of the corn flake. Regular enemas, exercises, outings and baths are prescribed, but Will repeatedly breaks the rules and is lured into liaisons with a chlorotic fellow patient and his nurse.

Eventually, he and Eleanor turn to other unconventional treatments, which are not sanctioned by Kellogg, including nudism and sexual stimulation. Meanwhile Charlie joins up with George Kellogg (Dana Carvey), the Doctor's adopted but estranged son, who taunts his father when he is not extorting money from him. George sets the san on fire, but is reconciled with Kellogg during the conflagration when he sobs "Daddy give us a cuddle." The Lightbodys go home to a moderate pursuit of health.


More garrulous and boldly drawn than the novel on which it is based, this film is an entertaining recreation of a ragtime era in health-obsessed, early twentieth-century America. Hopkins plays Kellogg with zeal balanced by kindliness, but the whole effect is spoiled by an large set of false teeth, lending him a rabbit face and a speech impediment too.

Fonda is stiff but beautiful in her role, while Broderick is altogether too red-blooded to be convincing in his. Liberties taken with the book--adding sex and eliminating homicide--bespeak the proclivities of American movie making: in the book, Will does not indulge in sex--though he sorely longs to do so--and the doctor murders his unrepentant son.


Based on the novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle.

Primary Source

Columbia Tristar Home Video