Movie Review: Wonder Park is Woefully Plain

Movie Review: Wonder Park is Woefully Plain
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Don’t let the amusing title and bright lights fool you. Wonder Park is a massive missed opportunity to create a shameless and joyful movie. What should have been colourful escapism is instead a boring, creepy mess.

Aside from some whimsical designs (and some neat camera angles) the movie is pandering, thin, and overstretched to justify being a feature film. It will temporarily distract those under the age of seven. For everyone else, it’s a snoozefest.

The adventure begins with the imaginary Wonderland theme park that lives in the imagination of June (Brianna Denski) and her mother (Jennifer Garner.) When her mom gets sick, June decides to stop playing with the make-believe amusement park in her house. And when she ventures into the woods, guess what place she discovers is real!

What could be a cute premise for an adventure story with some great gimmicks and set pieces, however, is anything but. In reality, it’s a depressing allegory that plays more like a mutant hybrid of Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out.

I commend the lack of fart jokes that would’ve been easy to incorporate. But that doesn’t excuse the absence of all subtlety with the film’s major themes. If Wonderland is an allegory for staying optimistic in crisis, we understand it after the first half hour. But once every single character has repeated the lesson on screen, it’s annoying.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

The only truly charming or creative element to the story are the bouncy songs the children sing on their way to math camp for the summer. To the writers credit, June has a variety of skills and talents that set a great example for kids.

It is, however, strange to see an entire neighbourhood of children obsessed with playing outside and studying engineering. A bunch of wholesome kids learning math and playing outside in the iPad age? Something about this math camp doesn’t “add” up.

But the best part of Wonder Park is unquestionably the animation. Despite irregularities in the story and an onslaught of boring jokes, the film looks fantastic. The animated characters and sets are colourful, crisp and bright. When the park is open and kids are frolicking through the fun, the place is a visual odyssey.

Where the concept of a theme park adventure goes wrong is having the place look like a dump for most of the movie. And that’s being kind to garbage dumps – and apocalyptic wasteland is more appropriate. And sadly, that negativity permeates most of the film.

It’s tough to imagine a movie having too many ideas going despite an 85 minute run time. Yet somehow they do it. Where are we supposed to pay attention? The porcupine with a disturbing crush on a warthog? The laughable cheesy blame-game the animals play on each other? The zombie plush toys?!

Even for families currently bored after a week of March break, there is a cavalcade of better family films to see. That’s especially true if it’s animation you’re craving: both The Lego Movie 2 and the terrific How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World are still in theatres. Even the recent Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is still playing.

Whatever you choose to keep the kids on break occupied, there’s no movie filled with less wonder and joy than this.

Wonder Park
1 1/2 out of 4 stars

G, 1hr 25mins. Animated Family Adventure Fantasy.
Starring Brianna Denski, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Norbert Leo Butz, Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Garner.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

Note: while normally the film’s director is also listed, this film is credited without one. This is because the director was fired in January 2018 due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

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