Director: David Feiss
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Brianna Denski, Tom Baker, Nobert Leo Butz, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Joe Sugg, Casper Lee
Written by: (also story) Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and (story) Robert Gordon
Running Time: 85 mins
Release date: 8th April 2019
It’s the Easter holidays so how about a warm family animation with cute characters and knockout humour to put everyone in a happy mood? If that’s what you’re looking for then best avoid Wonder Park, an extraordinary bleak journey which lacks any real subtlety and delivers a sad story that will keep little kids awake for years to come.
June loves creating rides for her imaginary theme park, Wonder Park, a place run by a monkey called Peanut. When June’s mum has to go into hospital, the young girl gives up on the dreams, putting away childish hopes and ambitions. Sent off to Mary camp, June fears her father, Now all alone, will fail to cope and so escapes the bus and heads home, finding herself lost in a woods where she stumbled on a deserted and forgotten theme park called Wonder Park.
This Spanish/US co-production takes the premise of Alice in Wonderland, throws in a modern twist and tried to capture the seriousness of Inside Out and Up while bludgeoning its young audience with bright colours and fast-paced set pieces. What the film cannot reproduce is the level of sympathy that those Pixar movies have us. Why did we don within the first few minutes of Up? Because it was handled subtly. Here the sadder moments are questionably handled, in a way that could traumatise than sympathise.
Once inside the park, June furry friends are woefully sketched out. A bear who, like all bears, lumbers along and is cuddly. Two beaver-like creatures who don’t seem to have any real characteristics and the jester of the bunch, a porcupine voiced by John Oliver. Some of the ideas here are fun and, on rare occasions, inventive. All of this is topped by the unbelievably disturbing Monkey Zombies, a tribe of toys who roam the park and the hapless gang try to avoid at all cost.
It is perfectly fine dealing with complicated subject matters, and for children, there is no better place than an animated feature. Yet here, coping with a parent’s severe illness and that she “has to go away” without any real follow up is heavy-handed and seems a cheap way to get the year ducts working. If the child isn’t questioning about the disappearance of June’s mother, they will either be screaming at the large-eyed monkey monsters or, quite frankly, bored by a story that doesn’t go anywhere.
The voice talents are fine with Jennifer Garner and Matthew Broderick perfectly suited as June’s parents. John Oliver gets the most laughs as the prickly porcupine, and then the rest of the British version is made up of the likes of Doctor Who Tom Baker and Strictly and YouTube star Joe Suggs.
Wonder Park is an inferior entry to a rather full style of film making. Instantly forgettable, it lacks any real interest to adults and will offer questions from the little ones or a constant reminder that Monkey Zombies are not real and won’t get them in the night.