The producers of “Wonder Park” are painting this as a really fun flick for children of all ages. The trailer tells you about a cute kid who helps equally cute, and lovable animals save a theme park. Packed into the trailer are a few funny scenes that will — no doubt — have kids or grandkids howling to see the movie.
Be warned. In parts, “Wonder Park’s” plot is very heavy. Needlessly so, and certainly a lot more mature than what some children will A) understand, or B) if they do understand, want to experience, or C) not care at all.
I’m not going to disclose the story’s downer. In my book the plot is already ruined, but telling you more might ruin it for you. June and her warm, loving, mega-involved mom spend a lot of time in the girl’s room with her stuffed animals. From the time she was really little to close to probably age 10, the two created Wonder Park. First it’s in her bedroom, and then the entire house is consumed with June’s passion.
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June — it turns out — is a brilliant engineer. Her park is packed with wondrous and imaginative rides. She creates them via a monkey named Peanut, and does so by whispering in his ear. Ironically, it turns out Peanut lives in some not-explained universe, is real and carries out June’s whispered ideas.
Later, after the heavy plot point happens, June bags doing Wonder Park. After a long and terrible period of time, she’s ordered by her father to go to math camp. Yep. Math camp. What kid wants to spend a summer at math camp?
To most kids, that — by itself — nearly turns “Wonder Park” into a horror movie.
No wonder June wants to escape. On the way to camp she cuts herself loose from her group of friends and wanders through the woods. There she encounters the real Wonder Park. It’s the one she created in her mind. The park is under attack by zombie-like creatures who used to be the imaginary people enjoying her now not-so-imaginary creation.
“Wonder Park” has a competent acting ensemble that does the best it can with a flimsy script. It’s led by Jennifer Garner who plays mom to Brianna Denski’s June. Matthew Broderick does dad and Mila Kunas, Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong play some of the park’s characters.
The film is done by an odd mix of three directors and three writers. When six creative souls are charged with making a film as complex as something that is animated, the result can be chaotic and catastrophic.
In this case it is both.
David Feiss is the only one of the six with animation experience. He created and directed some of the episodes in the Cartoon Network’s late 1990s hit, “Cow and Chicken.” Not making as much sense to doing a film aimed at younger audiences is Clare Kilner who directed the deadly dull, but more mature romcoms “American Virgin” and “The Wedding Date.”
Then you have Robert Iscove whose experience is doing even deadlier dull Hallmark Channel movies.
Story developers and screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec can claim to have some kiddie-flick experience as the reboot writers for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2014 and 2016. Also helping to develop the story is Robert Gordon who was one of the two writers of “Galaxy Quest” — which I loved — and he developed the story and wrote the script for “Men in Black II” which I didn’t.
The weird mix of movie making experience might explain the heavy story, and one that just doesn’t connect to the child in adults nor the child in actual children.
“Wonder Park” also seems like the producers, directors and animators wanted to do this in 3D as well as 2D. There are a few scenes that had me going, “Wow, would this be good in 3D or what?”
But alas, no 3D. To me that’s surprising. Maybe it came down to money. Or after watching children at 3D movies for several years, I’ve noted most struggle with the glasses they need to wear to see the film. And do younger children — those under 10 — really care about three-dimensions, anyway?
I don’t think so.
Children under 10 like about anything that’s animated. Kids 10 and up will find the movie heavy but may enjoy the effects. However, they won’t likely be all that impressed with the plot. Their parents or grandparents, or both will likely come to a similar conclusion.
Peanut and his Wonder Park cohorts are always talking about how this idea or that is splendiferous. They may think so but for a movie about splendiferously spectacular rides, this one fails spectacularly.
▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 2 out of 5