"Fishing for Love"
Saudade is a Brazilian word that roughly translates into “melancholy,” but it also means feeling sad and happy at the same time. NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND is a romantic comedy featuring a young woman displaying this emotional state, content with her moments of solitude while also longing for meaningful companionship. While low budget and slightly flawed, it takes place largely at an aquarium and refrains from the sex and nudity commonly found in today romantic comedies.
Erin (Hope Davis from THE DAY TRIPPERS and THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS) is a Boston night-shift nurse who has just been dumped by her activist boyfriend (Philip Seymour Hoffman). She becomes cranky, cynical and monastic, and even snaps at her overbearing mother who is determined to help her find a man. Erin is not sure than she needs a man. She gives a long explanation that she can be content sitting alone on a park bench, and by doing so, isn’t telling men to pick her up. Her mother isn’t buying it, and signs her up for a personal ad in the local newspaper.
Meanwhile, Alan (Alan Gelfant from THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS), an ambitious ex-plumber, struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming a marine biologist. He tries to avoid a pesky loan-shark named Frank (Vic Argo), who gave him a loan for biology classes. Because Alan is so consumed with study, he cannot come up with the money. So, Frank blackmails Alan into committing an absurd hate crime against the Aquarium’s adorable mascot Puff, the pufferfish, as a payment for the loan.
Erin accepts several of the dates who call her on the personal ad, but all of them end up being losers. One is engaged, others are betting on who can French kiss her first, including Alan’s brother. Then, she meets Andrew (Jose Zuniga), a charming Brazilian who seems to sing the right tune and understand Saudade. Circumstance seems to point Alan and Erin’s stories further and further apart, until a simple random moment brings the two together.
With a casual tranquillity, NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND explores those chance encounters that sometimes help people catch that elusive goal of romance. This archetypal love story involving fate and frustration is enhanced by several refreshing qualities. First, it offers a forum for Samba and Bossa Nova music, rare musical sounds for any movie not made in Brazil. It also shows a remarkable restraint in not depicting sex and nudity, unlike many modern romances. Finally, despite Erin’s quest for an ideal companion, she does display moments of contentment. Thus, NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND avoids the fault of many romantic movies, which often assert that people’s lives aren’t complete unless they have a partner to share it. While a lifelong partner of the opposite sex would be a gift from God, the Apostle Paul states, “Now to the unmarried and the widows, I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But, if they cannot control themselves, they should marry. (1 Corinthians 7: 8-9)” The point is that all mankind should seek first the Kingdom of God and not look for affirmation from a significant other for life’s satisfactions.
NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND does, however, have some objectionable material including many obscenities and profanities, some predatory games of romance and some simplifications regarding romance. It is not a large budget movie and will not get wide acclaim or recognition. Also, writer/director Brad Anderson offers little true insight into male-female relations other than saying that they sometimes take great circumstances to occur. He mainly provides a chance for rising stars to demonstrate their talent, including a small, but hilarious bit by veteran independent film actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
(Ro, B, LLL, S, A, D, M) Romantic worldview with some moral elements; 17 obscenities & 8 profanities; no violence except threats against fish; no sex but heavy kissing & flirtations; no nudity but woman in bra; smoking; drinking; and, miscellaneous immorality including lying, deceptions & inclusion of homosexual character.