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Burb Is the Word 

Wednesday, Jan 21 1998
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With Wonderland, filmmaker John O'Hagan finally confirms what many of us have long suspected: 1) Cities can't compete with the kind of weirdness that goes on behind closed suburban doors; and 2) Eddie Money is a big dork. The documentary on Levittown, N.Y., America's first "planned community," won the audience favorite award at last year's S.F. International Film Festival; after it screened, O'Hagan said in a Q&A session that he had intended to make a movie about the history of the suburb, but once he met its original residents, he decided that their lives were even more interesting than the development itself. O'Hagan strikes a winsome balance between the historical exigencies of a documentary and the entertainment value of a really good feature film in Wonderland, which showcases the considerable comic appeal of Levittown's citizenry without damaging the community's dignity. Archival footage of the post-World War II housing crunch and the blueprints of architect William Levitt give way to clips of the couple who fondly remember the neighborhood's early wife-swapping days, a man who gets his parakeet drunk, a couple obsessed with wood, another couple who spy on a dog-walking neighbor, and a man who confesses his loathing for his hometown in a series of inadvertently hilarious open-therapy sessions. The suburb's most famous sons, Zippy the Pinhead cartoonist Bill Griffith and singer Eddie Money, grew up in nearly identical tract homes, but their views of Levittown are vastly different. Griffith remembers a numbing boredom, but Money, perfectly happy belting out "Two Tickets to Paradise" to a local crowd, remembers no such thing. The movie screens Wednesday at 2, 7:30, and 9:20 p.m. (also 7:30 and 9:20 p.m. Thursday) at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 668-3994.

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Heather Wisner

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