WONDER PARK / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: DYLAN BROWN / SCREENPLAY: JOSH APPELBAUM, ANDRE NEMEC / STARRING: SOFIA MALI, JENNIFER GARNER, KEN HUDSON CAMPBELL / RELEASE DATE: 19TH AUGUST
As children, our imaginations are limitless. We can create anything in our heads and it is only the fact that we all grow up that halts our ability to do that as life gets in the way.
June has a great relationship with her mum, as they play and imagine, working together to create the eponymous theme park in both reality – via models and artwork - and in the fantastical realm. In fantasy, Wonder Park is run by a small group of animals: Peanut the chimpanzee, Greta thewarthog, and Boomer the bear, among others. All is great, until June's mum gets very sick and has to go away for treatment. June understandably is worried and loses her childhood innocence, packing Wonder Park away, much to her family's concern.
One day, June is sent to camp, but decides that her father can't look after himself and so she tries to return home, ending up lost in the woods only to stumble on a life-sized and decidedly corporeal Wonder Park. The only problem is that it has been overrun by chimpanzombies, and the host characters are just trying to survive as the park is picked apart bit by bit by the stuffed invaders. It's up to June to realise that the ability to save the day was in her all along.
This kind of story has been done so many times, and much better, by Disney as well as others. Here we have a familiar tale of a child realising her ability to do things that she doesn't think she can do by embracing her childhood. However, the film is incredibly dark in tone. June's mother's illness is almost sidelined and she is quickly carted off screen, yet the spectre of death literally floats above the rest of the running time via storm clouds over the park. Although it's an understandable analogy, there are far too few moments of brevity and a real lack of laugh out loud humour. If you can't find fun and humour in a world of an imaginary theme park run by animals that has been built by a child, where can you expect to find it?
Disney / Pixar are still kings of the animated movie, and this release from Nickelodeon Movies doesn't even come close to making a dent in the status quo.