January 1, 2018  (Web Review)

Wonder Wheel

Universal, 111 min., PG-13, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $22.99, Mar. 6

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

The title of Woody Allen’s latest film refers to the signature giant blue Ferris wheel that looms over Coney Island’s amusement park. Morose, melancholy, migraine-headache-plagued Ginny (Kate Winslet) works as a waitress at Ruby’s Clam House during the 1950s. Approaching her 40th birthday, she is unhappily married to oafish, volatile carousel-operator Humpty (Jim Belushi), whose long-estranged daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) suddenly appears on their doorstep. Fleeing from her gangster husband and his crime-syndicate cohorts after squealing to the FBI, penniless on-the-lam Carolina has nowhere else to go. “I know where all the bodies are buried,” she explains. None of this sits well with Ginny’s preteen pyromaniac son Richie (Jack Gore), a product of her first marriage to a jazz drummer she recklessly betrayed. Not surprisingly, having her nubile 26-year-old stepdaughter around interferes with Ginny’s adulterous affair with seductive Mickey Rubin (Justin Timberlake), a local lifeguard who commutes from his pad in Greenwich Village and dreams of becoming a major playwright like Eugene O’Neill. Unfortunately, Timberlake hasn’t developed the acting chops to tackle this kind of complicated, multi-layered role, serving—as have many others—as Allen’s talking-into-the-camera alter-ego. Wonder Wheel does successfully capture Brooklyn’s orange-hued Coney Island atmosphere, resurrecting the bustling boardwalk of years past, but ultimately this is a stilted romantic melodrama. Optional. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a “making-of” featurette (3 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a small extras package for a minor Allen film.] (S. Granger)