A multi-angled view of the infamous, grisly and still unsolved Laurel Canyon quadruple homicide case that implicated druggie porn star John Holmes.
This tale centers on John ''Johnny Wadd'' Holmes, though not, perhaps unfortunately, the porn chapter of his life, but the one in which he was implicated for the gruesome, bloody beating deaths of four of his drug dealing buddies. By the start of the 1980s, Holmes (Val Kilmer) had fallen from his pedestal in the hardcore industry to a state of financial and personal devastation. He is somewhat devoted to his teenage girlfriend Dawn (Kate Bosworth) and entirely devoted to the procurement of cocaine. A user and abuser, Holmes hooks up with some drug dealers operating out of a party house on Wonderland Avenue in California's Laurel Canyon neighborhood, and with them hatches a plan to heist his friend, the notorious club owner and drug dealer Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian). Out of his element and disrespected by the dealers even after the heist is successful, Holmes finds himself in deeper trouble than he ever expected. Depending on whose version of the story you believe--Holmes' or the one told by David Lind (Dylan McDermott), the only one of the group still alive--Holmes either set up his cohorts as revenge or was forced to participate in the murder to save his own skin.
Val Kilmer, rarely disappointing in the offbeat movie roles he usually takes, turns in an first-rate performance as scruffy drug addict Holmes, who f---s over everyone he knows. He alternately beats and screws his young girlfriend, pays the odd visit to the sanctimonious wife he never divorced (Lisa Kudrow) when he needs money, and, if his reputation serves him, probably did set up his scumbag pals for their horrific demise (we'll never know; Holmes died of AIDS in the late '80s). Good as he may be, however, Kilmer's Johnny Wadd never gets our sympathy as a druggie loser who brings all his problems on himself. Bosworth and Kudrow are good in completely extraneous characters given far too much screen time than is worth their contribution to the story. Tim Blake Nelson and Josh Lucas as the druggie ringleaders totally overact; others such as an unrecognizable Christina Applegate and Janeane Garofalo have nothing to add, and scenes with an awful, unbelievable McDermott as the biker interrogated by equally awful actors portraying cops are so appallingly bad they make you squirm. It's hard to lay all the blame on the actors, however, given the crummy, wooden dialogue they have to say.
A trippy and creative introduction to this story that involves newspaper photos turning into real people and suitably grainy, dim cinematography makes you think, ''Cool, this'll be another indie about John Holmes, drugs and porn starring Val Kilmer instead of Marky Mark.'' Not so fast. Director James Cox (Highway) takes a vaguely intriguing unsolved mystery and turns it into a hollow and unorganized quagmire on-screen. One guesses Cox and co-writer Captain Mauzner thought the porn component would sex the story up, so to speak, but Holmes might have been any other sleazeball druggie, so little is made of his adult industry connection. For that matter all the characters are so slimy you couldn't care less about what happens to them, while Cox's Rashomon style of storytelling serves no purpose other than to make the pic unnecessarily confusing and convoluted. No doubt the impressive cast was lured aboard thinking they were making the next Boogie Nights breakthrough, but Wonderland is uncompelling, unorganized and ultimately unexciting.
Completely hollow and devoid of purpose, Wonderland's depiction of the somewhat intriguing unsolved mystery of the murders of some druggies in 1980s L.A. is hardly worth sitting through the two hours it takes of your life.