Woody Allen making a film in which a man falls for his lover's much younger stepdaughter was always going to be a cringe-inducing affair, and that inescapable thought is in the back of many critics' heads as they decimate the 49th movie of his career, Wonder Wheel. The filmmaker's insistence on churning out at least one new movie a year is clearly taking its toll, and Wonder Wheel is currently on pace to go down as one of his worst reviewed efforts to date. Effort may actually be a poor word choice there, because from all appearances, Allen doesn't appear to have exerted much of it while making this stinker.
The film stands as Amazon Studios' first foray into self-distribution, and with a cast headlined by Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, and Justin Timberlake, it was looking like Wonder Wheel had a real shot at making some noise come awards season, especially for Winslet. Unfortunately for her, Allen's script is as barebones as it gets, and the A-list leading lady is stuck with some of the most clichéd lines you're likely to see in a movie theater this year. In fact, several critics found immediate similarities with Tommy Wiseau's legendarily awful The Room, and when your script is being compared to Wiseau's handiwork, you know something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. (Not so coincidentally, The Disaster Artist also hits theaters this weekend. We cannot stress this enough: go see that ten times before paying money to see Wonder Wheel.)
Of course, the fact that Wonder Wheel is hitting theaters in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal certainly isn't helping quiet the film's negative buzz, but frankly, when the effort is this minimal, there's no good time to release it either. Here are The Most Brutal Reviews Of Woody Allen's New Movie, Wonder Wheel.
Wonder Wheel isn't merely a bad movie but a laughable one ... We're basically sleepwalking through Woodyland by this point. But it all might have been a pleasant slumber were it not for this movie's requisite intellectual, a smarmy lifeguard named Mickey and played by Justin Timberlake in a mind-bogglingly awful performance/part mashup that's like [Eugene] O'Neill read by Tommy Wiseau. -- NPR
I’ve been trying to figure out a way that “Wonder Wheel” can be seen as good. Turgid even in its brightness, overwritten in a way that does nothing to camoflauge its first-draft quality, jaw-droppingly overacted by all but one of its central cast members; it’s a Woody Allen disaster that elicits both a cocked head and a dropped jaw. -- RogerEbert.com
If Wonder Wheel ended with the reveal that everything we'd just watched was the first draft of a bad play by Timberlake's lifeguard, perhaps you could call it a success. -- ScreenCrush
Wonder Wheel is inert and stagey, cheap and fake-looking, while also boasting one of the worst performances we’ve ever seen from Kate Winslet ... what’s particularly shocking is how ineptly it’s all presented ... And Timberlake, who’s been pretty good in smaller roles in other movies, doesn’t have nearly the talent to pull off anything more complicated than getting his lines out, most of them nonsense about Eugene O’Neill anyway. Belushi comes across as a parody of a Brooklyn working class schmoe (making a credible Andrew Dice Clay in Blue Jasmine look like Marlon Brando) while Winslet’s shrieking, semi-permanently hysterical Ginny is not only exhausting but ultimately demeaning to both the actress and working women in general (I lost count of the times she whined that her head was “throbbing” or “cracking open”). -- Den of Geek
“Wonder Wheel” loses its charms quickly and you’ll soon be begging to get off this particular ride. Did you really think you wouldn’t get ripped off during a visit to Coney Island? -- Associated Press
It might be time for Woody Allen to call it a day. -- Cultured Vultures
"Oh, God, spare me the bad drama," a character in Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" implores. Would that we could be so fortunate ... Because nothing on screen can surprise or involve us, this misbegotten melodrama would have been best left on the shelf. At this stage of his career, Woody Allen can get just about anything he writes made, but just because he can, that doesn't mean he should. -- Los Angeles Times
With no drive, no pressing urgency, and no character to really dig into, it’s abundantly clear we’ve reached the bottom of Allen’s drawer of ideas (yes, this is a real thing) ... Everyone here is a caricature, never approaching anything resembling depth or dimension. -- Fresh Fiction
Allen is, by all appearances, still filming first drafts, full of placeholder scenes and dialogue in sore need of polish, and releasing first cuts, full of narrative dead-ends and scenes that don’t work ... When the artist is bad, and the art is bad, what exactly is left to talk about? -- Flavorwire