WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
June, an optimistic, imaginative girl, discovers an incredible amusement park called “Wonderland” hidden in the woods. The park is full of fantastical rides and talking, funny animals, but the park is in disarray. June soon discovers the park came from her imagination, and she’s the only one who can fix it. June bands together with the animals to save this magical place and bring back the wonder in Wonderland.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Wonder Park is one of the surprises of the year - the trailer makes the film look like some gaudy merchandise cash grab from Nickelodeon, but instead, it’s a thoughtfully touching film on how children deal with traumatic changes in the family. Disney normally wins the heartstrings, with a few occasional gut punches from Dreamworks, and Nickelodeon’s trademark has always been on the more goofy side of things.
Wonder Park is a good change of pace, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have all that silly over-the-top fun that young kids feast on. Wonder Park just managed to compress it into something that adults will also enjoy watching.
June and her mom spent her childhood creating a splendifirous (my new favourite word) amusement park ran by a ragtag group of animals, but sadness makes June abandon her creation until she discovers that it’s all real.
Touching on family tragedy can be difficult in children’s movies, but it’s needed to help those going through the same experiences themselves. June loses bits of herself as a certain darkness takes hold - and too many of us know how the first thing to go is your imagination as you grow up. The writers - Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (Teenage Mutant Turtle, Ghost Protocol, Happy Town) - wielded a deft hand at the subject and despite the traditional zanyness of the animals, it never felt disingenuous to the main story. It’s not a breakout star for Nickelodeon, but passion went into its creation and that can make most movies great.
It also helps that you have such a stellar cast of voice actors - Jennifer Gardner, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Mathew Broderick and Ken Jeong - but if you need any other reason it’s to listen to late-night host Jon Oliver become a neurotic, safety-obsessed porcupine. That man knows how to deliver line after line like some comedy canon and they ALL land with 10 points on the board. I will now forever mutter ‘skipping to safety’ whenever I’m running away from something. Newcomer Brianna Denski is also a good addition to the cast, having both maturity and youth in her voice that’s perfect for June.
Wonder Park is a delightful family movie that will please the young ones with its antics and has enough Jon Oliver to keep the adults entertained. However, if you do know a young kid going through some too adult changes in their life, please take them to see this movie. It shows that feeling sad isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that sometimes escaping into an imaginary world of juggling bears and engineering beavers will unleash the wonder inside yourself, and perhaps by sharing it with the world you can make it a slightly better place.