Based on a script co-written by Cryer himself, Went to Coney Island on a Mission From God... Be Back by Five is a movie about, well, exactly that. Daniel (Cryer) and Stan (Rick Stear) head to the New York landmark in the dead of winter, based on a rumor they've heard about their childhood friend Richie. The long-missing Richie, it seems, has taken up residence under the boardwalk, joining ranks with the insane and otherwise homeless Coney Island-dwellers. It's Daniel and Stan to the rescue.
Why has Richie gone nuts? Will Stan come to terms with his alcoholism and gambling issues? Will Daniel loosen up a little? All these questions will be answered in the 90 minutes that Coney Island runs -- and these are some of the bleakest moments on film.
Washed out to the point of near monochrome, Coney Island is a hard film to watch because the anguish onscreen is unrelenting. Cryer and his compatriot Richard Schenkman have obviously poured a lot of soul into this picture, so much so that the film feels insular to the cast and crew -- and off-putting to the audience. Fortunately, a number of lighter moments (and a memorable by Frank Whaley as a Skee-Ball attendant) make the film quite watchable, not to mention keeping you, as a viewer, from slitting your wrists thanks to all the melancholy.
Ultimately, Coney Island tries to be a mini-Magnolia with its tales of intersecting pasts and presents, and in some aspects it is successful. But Coney Island could steal a thing or two from Magnolia about how a depressing story can resonate with an audience by tricking the viewer into caring deeply about its subjects. The Wonder Wheel may not spin fast enough for that.
Freak shows by the seashore.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 18th April 1998
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Richard Schenkman