Who’s In It: Matthew Broderick, Sanaa Lathan, Michael K. Williams, Jodelle Ferland, Philip Baker Hall, Ally Walker
The Basics: Personal and professional failure has turned former children’s songwriter Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick) into a miserable cynic of the highest order. He’s so consumed with anger at the world that he spends custody visits with his young daughter complaining about bureaucracy and gas prices and poisons his relationships with bitterness and suspicion. Ben is so isolated that his only friends are his Senegalese roommate, Ibou (Michael K. Williams) and a hallucinated manifestation of The Man (Philip Baker Hall), who visits him in his dreams to have philosophical debates about life. That is until Ibou falls into a diabetic coma and his foxy African sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) comes to visit. One Senegalese magic ritual and an ethnic dance performance later, Khadi and Ben have fallen in love (surprise!) and Ben begins to rethink his people-hating lifestyle.
What’s The Deal: While it could have worked as a father-learning-lessons-from-his-precocious-young-daughter kind of movie, Wonderful World chooses to solve Ben’s problems with the age-old transformative power of sex – multi-culti sex between a mean white man and a bubbly African woman, at that. (Gag me.) In truth, it’s totally entertaining whenever Matthew Broderick is acting like an a-hole, complaining about the world and insulting everyone from friends to strangers to their faces. Life’s a bitch once you grow up, eh Ferris? But once the clichés and the maudlin dialogue and the African parables about fish magically raining down from the sky get rolling, Wonderful World falters under the weight of its own corniness.
The Worst Accent Of 2010: It’s only January, but I’m willing to stake that no other actor in the next 11 months will rock an accent as terrible as Sanaa Lathan’s fake African-English. Sometimes she sounds kinda-almost-right, sometimes she sounds Jamaican and once or twice, I could swear she was German.
Who Rises Above The Rest: Omar from “The Wire.” In fact, Michael K. Williams is the noble, unsung hero of Wonderful World for managing the role of Ibou, the sickly, wise, chess-playing best friend (which is, I dare say, a variation on the Mystical Negro stereotype) with dignity and grace. And a decent accent. Even youngster Jodelle Ferland, who’ll next be seen as a vampire in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, holds her own against Matthew Broderick as his preternaturally mature 11-year-old daughter.
Additional Kudos To: Original songs by Grammy-winning family folk musician Dan Zanes, even though his biggest fans won’t be allowed to see this R-rated picture.