Every once in a while a kids’ movie comes along that mesmerises its target audience with wonder. Despite its name, Wonder Park isn’t such a movie.
The story is sweet enough – if not predictable at every turn. A happy young girl named June, who’s part of a happy family, is happily using her wonderful imagination to create a magical – and, of course, happy – amusement park named Wonderland that’s run by a collection of stuffed animals. This starts off small, with a bunch of coloured paper, boxes, bendy straws, pipe cleaners, sticky tape, textas and other such crafty odds and sods, but soon engulfs the house. It really is quite the amazing sight.
But then the happiness disappears, as June’s mother becomes ill and goes away for treatment. A darkness descends upon June, and the wonder-filled experience she shared with her “mom” in creating Wonderland falls by the wayside. Sent to math camp a little later, she makes good an escape through the woods, and stumbles upon an actual real world version of Wonderland – albeit a rather rundown one – and it comes complete with all of those animals, but they’re now alive.
Can they group together to rebuild Wonderland and dispel the darkness? Yep, you bet your boots they can!
We’ve never been in a cinema full of kids for a movie screening before and experienced near-as dead silence throughout – until this one. There was no laughing, no squeals of joy at the cute animals (possibly because they’re mostly creepy – especially the leader monkey, Peanut, who could easily land a gig elsewhere in a horror flick) – and little in the way of interest. Our own young co-reviewer, when asked afterwards what his favourite part was, thought about it for a while, then shrugged. He had nothin’.
There’s also nothing here for parents, save perhaps for stabbing pangs of sheer terror at the thought of their offspring copying young June in making a potentially deadly roller coaster in the backyard.
Despite a couple of decent voice performances – in particular John Oliver as a porcupine named Steve – Wonder Park is just average. Really, really average in every possible way. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a good one, either. It’s just kind of there. In a world that sees the likes of Pixar, Illumination and Aardman continually releasing top notch children’s entertainment, Wonder Park fails to make good on what it promises – any real sense of wonder.
In cinemas: April 4, 2019
Starring: The voices of Brianna Denski, Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner
Directed by: Uncredited