‘Wonder Park’ review: Existentialism in an amusement park

A scene from ‘Wonder Park’

A scene from ‘Wonder Park’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Wonder Park is torn between a fascinatingly dark premise and trite physical comedy

‘Wonder Park’ is fascinatingly dark for an animated children’s film. It begins by ushering you into an amusement park – a figment of June’s (Brianna Denski) imagination – setting the tone for a presumably silly Hollywood film. But suddenly, at an early point in the narrative, June discovers that her mother has a serious ailment, making her mentally and emotionally grow up, almost overnight. Now, she is a hypochondriac on her father’s behalf and abandons her childhood fantasy world to fill in her mother’s shoes. We’ve all been where June is – a personal crisis that adds years to our age. But this unexpected Pixar-like profundity is quickly infused with some inexplicable magical realism where June accidentally enters her own imaginary park. The film opens a tiny window to solipsism but quickly shuts it. Sadly, from there on, only silliness ensues.

Wonder Park
  • Director: David Feiss
  • Cast: Brianna Denski, Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kath Soucie, David Cross, Norbert Leo Butz, and Kevin Chamberlin
  • Storyline: June enters an amusement park created in her own head

‘Wonder Park’ is an odd film. In between catering to very young children with generic and substandard animation and formulaic chases, you encounter grown-up dialogues like “An existential crisis! I knew this day was missing something.” There’s also a lurking cloud of ‘darkness’, which could be an allusion to sadness or depression, which is deteriorating June’s imagination. The concepts are ambitious (perhaps to be an emotionally-charged Pixar-like film) but the outcome is fragmented, refusing to commit to either children or adults, in an attempt to engage both. Unlike ‘Inside Out’ (2015), which was also driven by a little girl’s sad state of mind, ‘Wonder Park’ is tantalising and doesn’t allow its characters to hold ground on their own. There’s a monkey, a bear, a porcupine, a wild boar, two beavers, each with their little traits and stories that aren’t given enough room to develop. Too much long-drawn physical comedy to be blamed, perhaps.

At the end of the day, this film is meant for children. So its templated nature is understandable, for children are attracted to familiarity. But filmmakers often forget that they also have energetic imaginations, and in that department Wonder Park can’t match up. It’s a pity that a film, which puts imagination on a pedestal and incessantly advocates for it, presents visuals that are anachronistic and shoddy. What the film does get right, much like ‘Inside Out’, is the portrayal of sadness and its refusal to completely vilify it. “Darkness… maybe it will never go away, maybe it is there to remind us of the light that surrounds us…” Four years after ‘Inside Out’, it’s a reminder that we perhaps needed the most.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 8:38:18 AM |

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