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Wonder Park - Review

Wonder Park

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE spirit of Pixar films such as Inside Out and Up (its opening 10 minutes) hangs over Wonder Park, an ambitious but ultimately flawed attempt to mix adult themes with child-friendly fun.

A co-production between Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies, the film also arrives off the back of a production controversy that saw its director, Dylan Brown, removed from the project and not replaced, which could explain for some of the film’s uneven tone.

But that also detracts from a largely amiable experience that plays well to younger audiences in spite of its obvious shortcomings.

The plot focuses on a young girl named June (voiced by Brianna Denski), who lives to let her imagination run wild in an imaginary theme park she has created with her mother (Jennifer Garner). She is also something of a neighbourhood heroine for the way in which she includes all of the children around her to participate in the creation of real-life rides and adventures.

But when her mother falls gravely ill and is forced to move away for prolonged treatment, June loses her zest for life and retreats into herself, to the dismay of her struggling to cope father. When she is sent to maths camp, she quickly rebels and finds a way off the bus escorting her there in a bid to get back home.

En route, however, she stumbles across the ‘wonderland’ of her imagination, which has fallen into a state of disrepair, and teams up with its inhabitants (including goofy bear Boomer and neurotic porcupine Steve) to rescue it and herself in the process.

Wonder Park – which curiously and divertingly isn’t named as such for the duration of the film’s running time – works as well as it does by virtue of the colourful animation and the goofy park characters. They help to ensure that kids will lap up the often knockabout humour that accompanies them – with both Boomer and Steve the butt of many jokes.

Denski also ensures that her June remains endearing, sympathetic and worth rooting for, especially during the latter part of her emotional journey.

It’s just a shame that the film, as a whole, lacks the emotional maturity of the Pixar titles it so clearly aspires to, especially in the sometimes clumsy mixing of tones. There’s also a general lack of subtlety in the film’s emotional journey and some of the imagery it deploys (with the villainous hordes of monkeys that comprise the film’s villains an obvious metaphor for the cancer cells invading June’s mother’s body).

For all of its lofty ambitions, Wonder Park ultimately emerges as a forgettable experience, albeit one that passes the time in a mostly agreeable kind of way. But it could have been so much better.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 86mins
UK Release Date: April 8, 2019