My stance on the films of Matthew Broderick has long been a controversial one. I particularly dislike the much beloved “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (There, I said it!) So I was all set to rip apart “Wonderful World.” And then an amazing thing happened. I didn’t hate it.
“Wonderful World” tells the story of Ben Singer, a former children’s musician and divorced dad who isn’t shy about sharing his opinions with everyone who crosses his path. His views are usually perceived as pessimistic but, honestly, a lot of what he says is just telling it like it is, a practice that most adults have trained themselves not to do.
I find Ferris Bueller insufferable because he shows no remorse for his selfishness getting everyone around him in trouble. More ridiculously, the community at large views him as a sort of hero. In “Wonderful World,” Ben is also somewhat selfish, but at least he’s called on it and eventually makes an effort to change. His depression-fueled brand of honesty becomes a problem when he tells off his neighbor, an SUV-driving yuppie who complains that, because of Ben’s car, he has to make five inconvenient wheel turns to get out of his compact space. The neighbor takes out his revenge by having Ben’s car towed, just as Ben needs it to rush his diabetic roommate, Ibu, to the hospital. Ben’s depression worsens as his roommate slips into a coma, Ben loses his job, and he is unable to sugarcoat things for his 11-year-old daughter. As a result of her dad’s downer ways, she no longer wants to spend her court-appointed weekends with him. Eventually, Ben realizes that his attitude is driving people away and preventing him from success. Something must change.
Ben’s attitude starts to shift when he meets Khadi, the beautiful Senegalese sister of his roommate who stays with him while Ibu is in the hospital. Ben teaches Khadi that if you understand “The Bottom Line,” the idea that every situation has a total value which makes you decide whether or not to do something, that you understand America. By way of example, it’s what insurance adjusters to every day. In contrast, she teaches him that magic is everywhere and that “thoughts are things.” Inevitably, their situation turns romantic. It’s a sweet relationship and just what Ben needs to find his way.
But here’s why “Wonderful World” is only a three star film: Many of Ben’s complaints are totally valid. His neighbor was the one who chose to own an SUV in an urban setting. The boss who fires him is a prick. “The Bottom Line” is the slogan for Capitalist America and it’s one of the main reasons why bad things happen to good people.
So while I agree Ben has room for emotional growth, he shouldn’t have to be happy all the time or change completely. And he has every right to call certain people on their bullshit. Someone has to do it. I only wish Ben Singer could have met Ferris Bueller.