No segue. Creative juices down the toilet when I’m buzzed at 2:30 in the morning.
The story looks like it’s about a girl who once imagined a great amusement park but lost her creative mojo and gave up on her imagination. A little older now and the girl happens upon a life-sized version of the amusement park that she created as a kid, which is being taken over by a malevolent force and is now helping the remaining animal inhabitants to take it back.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Brianna Denski (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Jennifer Garner (PEPPERMINT , FROM HEAVEN , and KINGDOM ), and Matthew Broderick (MANCHESTER , TRAINWRECK , LION KING , and the upcoming LOVE IS BLIND ).
In support, we have Kenan Thompson (GRINCH  and GOING IN STYLE ), Mila Kunis (SPY/DUMPED , BAD MOMS  and X-MAS ), Sofia Mali (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), John Oliver (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming THE LION KING ), and Ken Jeong (GOOSEBUMPS 2 , NORM/NORTH , and upcoming films BOSS LEVEL  and ELSEWHERE ).
Now for the crew. Co-writing the screenplay are Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, both known for TMNT 2 (2016), M:I 4 (2011), and the upcoming G.I. JOE: EVER VIGILANT (2020). Composing the score is Steven Price, known for AMERICAN ASSASSIN (2017) and SUICIDE SQUAD (2016). The cinematographer is Juan García Gonzalez, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the editor is Edie Ichioka, known for THE BOXTROLLS (2014) and TOY STORY 2 (1999).
Some of you have probably noticed that I left out the director. That’s because the film disowned the director due to allegations of misconduct by multiple women. In the spirit of that, I’ve decided to not credit the director as well. It may not be hard to find the name, but you won’t find it here. Also, no one was brought in to replace the original director, so no one is credited with directing this flick. Production was almost done by the time the drama happened.
Overall, I don’t know, this looks very kid-pandering to me. A lot of the jokes from the trailer seemed pretty bottom of the barrel. Personally, I doubt I’m going to like it, but it’ll be fine enough for kids. Hey, I sat through NORM OF THE NORTH, I can survive any kids flick.
This is my honest opinion of: WONDER PARK
As a child, June Bailey (voiced by Sofia Mali) and her mother (voiced by Jennifer Garner) created an imaginary theme park called Wonderland. However, June’s mother got really sick and had to go away, hopefully to get better. In her grief, June gave up on Wonderland, unable to continue using her imagination without her mom, and as she got older, June (voiced by Brianna Denski) became reclusive and obsessed with taking care of her father (voiced by Matthew Broderick). But in a bid to get her to continue being a kid, she is begrudgingly sent to Math Camp with her friend Banky (voiced by Oev Michael Urbas). However, the trip is short-lived as she freaks out about leaving her dad alone and escapes the bus with the intention to trek through a forest back home. Things take a turn for her, both figuratively and literally, when she stumbles across a real life Wonderland, only that this one is run down and deserted, having been taken over by the adorable, yet hostile Chimpan-zombies, and only a few of the original animal caretakers are left to try and fix the problem, now, with June’s help.
I don’t know why this is called “Wonder Park!” It makes no sense! The theme park in the movie is called “Wonderland.” I wager if you watch the trailers, they’re really careful about not saying the name of the park to avoid confusion. Well, color me confused, kiddos! It didn’t work! But what’s in a name, so long as the movie is good, right? Well… yeah, actually, the movie is surprisingly good. Eh, for a kids movie.
One of the primary reasons why I say this is far better than it almost needs to be is because there is quite a bit of heavy drama. You have a sick mother who has to go away in order to get better. I was seriously expecting this movie to go the route that UP (2009) took. It doesn’t, but for a movie that I thought was going to pander to little-little kids, this was surprisingly mature, especially in how it’s handled. Wonderland’s creation was a co-project with June and her mom, not just hers. Without her mom to help fuel her imagination, she’s got no desire to keep at it. As a young girl, she doesn’t know how to deal with the loss, so she starts acting out, but not in a bratty way. Her aunt and uncle visit her hoping to help add to Wonderland, but June ends up throwing her blueprints into the fireplace. She knows what she did and feels absolutely horrible about it, making for arguably the most dramatic moment in the story. It’s maturity like that that makes me really respect kids movies.
As for the rest of the film, it’s serviceable enough. In fact, in a lot of ways, I feel like this movie is the movie that TOMORROWLAND should have been. It hits the same markers. A place that we see in the beginning as this magical and amazing place, but then we see it in the present and it’s a wasteland of depression, and it’s up to the female protagonist to help bring it back to life. Except in TOMORROWLAND, we don’t actually see that. We see too much of the bleak and ugly, and not enough hints of the great and majestic. In Wonderland, we do see a good mix. Some aspects of the park are still operational, like the flying fish merry-go-round, that giant hulking tentacle armed robot thing that the Chimpan-zombies control, Zero-G Land, you get color and fun visuals, so I respect that.
Of course, animation is pretty good. It’s not up there with the likes of Disney or Pixar, but it gets the job done where it needs to. It especially does wonderfully with the background work and the autumn colors in the forest prior to entering Wonderland.
But as previously stated, this movie is definitely for kids, so I didn’t agree with everything.
A lot of the humor fell short. There’s this woman who screams like a fangirl every time Peanut the Monkey (voiced by Norbert Leo Butz) acknowledges her, which creeped me out a little bit. This definitely applies to side characters, Boomer (voiced by Ken Hudson Campbell), Cooper (voiced by Ken Jeong), Gus (voiced by Kenan Thompson), and Steve (voiced by John Oliver), where absolutely nothing landed. Boomer the Bear just falls asleep randomly, Gus and Cooper the woodchuck brothers just bicker, and the Steve the porcupine is a safety nut and his quills get him caught on stuff. They’re just one note characters. Only Greta the Hog (voiced by Mila Kunis) has any level of interest as she’s the only one that doesn’t trust June, as she’s also responsible for bringing The Darkness over Wonderland. Actually, Steve has a great line. After surviving a death-defying encounter with the Chimpan-zombies and they’re hiding out where June tells the animals that they’re figments of her imagination, he says, “An existential crisis! I knew this day was missing something.” Boy howdy do I relate to that statement. That got a nice chuckle out of me.
June as a younger child also drags a bit too long, mostly because of her desire to make a life-sized DIY roller-coaster around her neighborhood, which could have been cut out and made more sense. I say this because after this scene, she’s building models of the Wonderland rides with her mom. It didn’t feel necessary.
Beyond all that, the movie is fine for what it is: a solid enough kids movie. It has heart, some surprisingly good drama, and I’ll always be a sucker for movies that encourage kids to never lose their imagination. Still, at the end of day, it’s not very funny, outside of one line from Steve, it’s predictable, but hey, it’s a kids movie. As a recommendation, if you’ve got kids, whether they’re your own, little cousins, or nieces or nephews, anything of that nature, then this movie will be fun for them. But I won’t recommend it for casual adults.
My honest rating for WONDER PARK: 3/5
This week’s reviews:
- THE AFTERMATH
- THE MUSTANG
- CAPTIVE STATE
- FIVE FEET APART
- THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT
- NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE
- NO MANCHES FRIDA 2: PARAÍSO DESTRUIDO
- PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE / SORRY ANGEL
- FAITH, HOPE & LOVE
Next week’s reviews: