Wonder Park voice cast: Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, Matthew Broderick, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, John Oliver
Wonder Park movie rating: 1.5 stars
A Nickelodeon production, this animation film doesn’t have any credited director (after one was fired for the now usual reason, allegations of sexual misconduct). What it has is a TV series spin-off scheduled to arrive later this year and a mobile game available for download.
If that tells you enough about the explosion of colour, chaotic antics and endless chatter which is this film, at least the filmmakers left you forewarned.
At one level, this is sad. For, within all the pyrotechnics that blind and deafen through this reasonably short but interminably long venture, there is a story which could have worked. About childhood and imagination, about responsibility and growing up, about letting your children be and, over and above all, about a girl who builds an amusement park. Who hasn’t been to one, from your local fair to Disney World, and not felt the rush coming down from a height? Where else could have those rides sprung from but the desire to tap into that one brief moment of childhood?
At a time when most of our thrills come from devices nestled in our palms, while we nestle in the darkness of our rooms, Wonder Park could have been a call to step outside and discover wonder. There are several suggestions here of this, including when the main character, June (Denski), stumbles into woods, and in the play of light and dark, sunlight on leaves the shade of orange, finds the kaleidoscope that she thought was just the figment of her imagination.
That is the premise of Wonder Park. June and her mother (Garner) together create a magical world with drawings, leftover scrap, straws and paper cups, populating it with her toys. When the mother falls ill and goes away, she takes the joy of that world for June, who also feels responsible for taking care of her father (Broderick).
Of course, we know how this story will turn out once June has discovered that her Wonder Park ‘actually exists’, and is now threatened by a ‘darkness’ that is engulfing it. The film stretches that point to its limit, even as it stretches our patience with all it packs in to ensure bang and laughs — falling short on both, even as many minor characters indulge in incomprehensible banter.
But if even one girl — or, for that matter, any kid — after this decides to pick up her crayon and design the next blockbuster ride, Disney is waiting. They call them ‘Imagineers’.