DVD Review: Wonder Wheel

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Woody Allen | CAST: Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Debi Mazar, Jim Belushi, Max Casella
RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $13.99, Blu-ray $20.97
BONUSES: cast and crew interviews
SPECS: PG-13 | 101 min. | Drama | 2.00:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall

Set in Coney Island in the 1950s, Woody Allen’s 47th feature film Wonder Wheel focuses on a waitress in a clam house named Ginny (Kate Winslet, Triple 9), a former actress who is married to alcoholic hothead carousel operator Humpty (Jim Belushi, The Ghost Writer). Unexpectedly entering their lives is Carolina (Juno Temple, Jack & Diane), Ginny’s step-daughter, who’s on the run from her mobster hubby. The three—plus Ginny’s movie-obsessed pyromaniac son from a former husband—live uncomfortably on a Coney Island pier amidst the ferris wheel, bumper cars and cotton candy stands.

Things get even more awkward when a lifeguard named Mickey (Justin Timberlake, Runner Runner) enters the picture, begins an affair with Ginny, and then finds himself attracted to Carolina.

The film is gorgeously shot, digitally by Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, 1900), who also photographed Café Society, Woody’s last film. It often looks like a picture postcard coming to life. Along with a vintage soundtrack and lovely production and costume design, the film seems to have the goods that made past nostalgic efforts like Radio Days and The Purple Rose of Cairo winners.

Unfortunately, the script plays like warmed over Woody. The dialogue doesn’t spark, the plot complications are mechanical and the chemistry among the leads just isn’t there. Not helping matters is Timberlake, who intermittently serves as narrator and speaks to the camera. And he appears to be acting in a different, more contemporary movie throughout.

Perhaps not-so oddly enough, Wonder Wheel’s plot smacks of some of Allen’s real-life complications—his involvement with step-daughter Soon-Yi Previn in particular. But Woody and Soon-Yi have been married for over 20 years now, so the real-life situation and the film’s aping of it seems old hat—much like the Tennessee Williams/Arthur Miller mashup screenplay that makes this Wonder Wheel not so wonderful.

Buy or Rent Wonder Wheel

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.