MOVIE REVIEW: More merry-go-round than rollercoaster
Director David Feiss
Starring Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, Matthew Broderick
Running time 85 minutes
Verdict No OH&S issues with this carefully-curated kids adventure
ON the scale of amusement park thrills, this wide-eyed adventure would rank right up there … alongside the kiddies' carousel.
Wonder Park might be an acceptable enough choice for very small or timid children, but the bar for animated family fantasies has been set very high, and Paramount Picture's candy-coated offering doesn't even come close to scaling it.
Set in a storybook suburb somewhere in Middle America, there's a wholesomeness to Wonder Park that feels very retro - this is a world in which the children play outside, building go-karts and bruising their knees, rather than cocooning themselves in an alternative, virtual space.
The heroine, June Bailey (Brianna Denski), is bold, brave and adventurous - aren't they all?
She spends the bulk of her time imagining her own amusement park - where fish fly and bendy straws turn into giant slides - with unstinting encouragement from her adoring mother (Jennifer Garner), known only as Mom or Mrs Bailey.
When June is very occasionally stumped for inspiration, Mom gently prompts her - with the help of a stuffed monkey who acts as an intermediary between their handcrafted model and her daughter's unbridled imagination.
June's Dad (Mathew Broderick) watches over the pair with doting amusement.
This idyllic existence is threatened when Mom's spark slowly begins to fade due to a mysterious illness, which behaves a lot like cancer.
After she "disappears" to a nebulous location in a last-ditch attempt to get well, June's world shrinks dramatically.
The once-intrepid youngster becomes a scared, controlling clean freak with no time for foolish play or fanciful imaginings who sticks like glue to her sole remaining parent.
At this point, Wonder Park begins to feel like a rather pale imitation of Inside Out, Pixar's wildly inventive journey into the brain of an 11-year-old girl.
Rather than grapple with tumultuous emotions such as sadness, anger and disgust, June is threatened by an ominous dark cloud and a swarm of small, stuffed zombie-monkeys.
Her allies are a narcoleptic blue bear (Ken Hudson Campbell), a wild boar (Mila Kunis), a porcupine (John Oliver), two beaver brothers (Fitzy and Wippa in the Australian version) and the aforementioned chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz).
Wonder Park takes its inspiration from early childhood craft sessions and the storytelling feels about as sophisticated.
Movies have spawned theme park rides. Movies have been based on theme park rides. Here's a movie set in a theme park ride. As an experience, it's unusually tame.