“Wonder Park” delivers a positive message to younger audiences about creativity and courage in the face of difficult times.
The film makers package that message into an imaginative flight of fancy. The film aims at being a thrill ride into a dream world that every kid has imagined in their own way.
The intent is clear, and it comes through in a movie that should satisfy its target audience. However, parents and older children may find the ride has quite a few kinks that need to be worked out.
What’s it about?
“Wonder Park” has at its heart a young girl named June (voiced by Brianna Denski). Lovingly encouraged by her mom (Jennifer Garner), June is a theme-park imagineer in the making. She’s constantly churning out ideas and concepts for the theme park of her dreams, and her imagination excites her parents and friends.
However, a family crisis brings June back down to earth. The flights of fancy stop, and her “Wonderland” becomes something she wishes desperately to avoid.
Her actions have unintended consequences, though. While away from home on a summer trip, June finds herself swept away into the very world she thought was only imaginary.
The park exists, just as she imagined it, along with all her childhood companions (stuffed animals) brought to life to entertain guests. But something’s gone terribly wrong — June’s friends are fighting for their lives as a terrifying force threatens to destroy the park and them along with it.
It’s not long before everyone realizes June is the key to saving “Wonderland.”
To do so, she’ll just have to face all the fear and anxiety that’s turned her life upside down. No problem, right?
Simple message, clunky execution
Like the “Wonderland” in the film, “Wonder Park” is full of good ideas. Unfortunately, little of that inspiration lives up to its potential in the execution.
Screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol“) show off their talents for creating thrill rides once again here, this time without the limits of actual real-life physics to hold them back.
Where “Wonder Park” stumbles is in the beats between the wild rides, however.
It starts with voice direction. Despite an all-star Hollywood cast of voices, most of the voice work comes off sounding flat at best.
The film also suffers from uneven pacing. It feels long even at a scant 85 minutes, with a predictable first act that takes too long to wrap up followed by a second and third act full of sensory overload.
In this day and age when Disney-Pixar and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” have set the bar of quality in American animated feature films ridiculously high, “Wonder Park” honestly does not come close to those benchmarks.
Of course, that may not matter to audiences in the film’s target age group. What will matter is the film’s vibrant visual style and art direction, which should draw some ‘oooohs’ and ‘ahhhs.’
There’s also the aforementioned positive messages about creativity and courage. They’re articulated well enough that parents should be able to reinforce them when talking to their children about the movie afterward.
Those elements alone may make “Wonder Park” a relatively fun family viewing experience.
As a parent or chaperone, keep your expectations tempered and you should be just fine.
Starring the voices of Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, Brianna Denski and Ken Hudson Campbell.
Running time: 85 minutes
Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and action.