REVIEW: Wonder Park

Do you remember how you felt when you first saw Inside Out? Not only was it a whimsical, stunning adventure, but it touched everyone with its meaningful message of saying that it’s okay to be sad, sometimes.

And then, four years later, we’re treated to Wonder Park; a movie which attempts to teach similar lessons, but the only real moral of the story is, well, hope that one of your parents gets critically ill so you can run away from your responsibilities and end up in a delusional, make-believe fairground and fight bears…

For a movie called Wonder Park, it really lacks any wonder whatsoever. But then again, what else do you expect from the team that brought you Monster Trucks, Sherlock Gnomes and the upcoming blue spawn of Satan, himself, Sonic the Hedgehog?

From the offset, nothing goes well for Wonder Park. It tells the story of a creative, young girl – called June – who imagines an elaborate theme park with her mother, played by Jennifer Garner. However, when her mum – who is aptly named Mom in the movie – is diagnosed with an unspecific illness, and leaves to go to hospital, June forgets about her make-believe theme park, called Wonder Park. Now, not to sound like a moody arsehole (which is difficult, because 98% of the time, I am a moody arsehole), but… Wouldn’t it have been better if June’s mum actually did die?

I know it’s a kids film, but Disney has been killing off his protagonists’ parents since the mid-40s, and rumour has it, he’s done pretty well for himself. Anyone who’s seen Up can assure you that a traumatic opening can lead to a beautiful movie. Why did June give up on Wonder Park so easily, when she was clearly obsessed with it? Sure, she was upset that her mother was in hospital, but she could still visit her; she could still call her every day. What was the moral of this story? “If your parents even get a minor cold, they may as well be dead to you, so give up on your hopes and dreams”? If June’s mother had passed away, not only would this movie have some sentimental value, but it would give June a reason to evade the project the pair had been working on.

But let’s get to the actual Wonder Park, shall we? Which, by the way, June stumbled upon when she left her school trip to go back home. Thankfully, she ended up in a wacky fairground, and not in a creepy old man’s van. Phew.

Wonder Park is a figment of June’s imagination – a place where anything is possible. Just like me, I bet you’re excited to see the wide array of flamboyant rollercoasters and bizarre amusements that Wonder Park has to offer. Well, don’t hold your breath, because your lungs would fucking implode on themselves. We see the occasional ride in action, but – for the most part – it’s just derelict stalls and attractions, due to June’s lack of imagination. The colourful cast of animal critters help the pace of the story. It’s just a shame they’re really not that likeable.

The characters which run the park – brought to life by June’s mind – include a warthog, played by Mila Kunis, a porcupine played by John Oliver, and beavers played by YouTubers Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee (or, in the US version, Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong). Yes. I was unfortunate enough to see the UK version. Why would I want to see two highly talented comedians in the film though, eh?

Pretty much every single one of the characters was lazily written. We call agree that Mila Kunis is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, can’t we? And if we can’t, then I’m not sure I want us to be friends. So is it really that funny to cast her as a pig? I get it. She’s pretty. Pigs aren’t. Yeah. But Family Guy did it first. And they did it in 1999. And – by that logic – The Simpsons probably did it in 1983.

As for the other remaining furry sidekicks; none of them have any defining traits. Joe and Caspar’s beavers were difficult to understand. That’s all I took from them. The only possible highlight would be John Oliver’s Steve, a shy, neurotic porcupine. But this isn’t because Steve was a well-written character, with a deep backstory and a joyous story arc. It’s just because John is a good voice actor and managed to salvage an occasional laugh in a rather unentertaining hour and a half.

That’s the problem. There aren’t any jokes. Wonder Park relies on big rollercoasters and brightly coloured characters to amuse kids, but that’s not going to cut it. If all it took was for a few characters to be a bold shade of red, Schindler’s List would be at the top of every kids’ wish list right now. Thankfully, however, it’s not.

As expected, Wonder Park is also terribly, terribly predictable. June gradually learns to use her imagination again whilst at Wonder Park (which makes zero sense, because she clearly had to have been using it to imagine being in Wonder Park in the first place.) After learning to hone her creativity once more, her mother returns from hospital and the pair oddly open a miniature, real-life fair ground in their back garden based off of Wonder Park. Because, why not? (Apart from the construction costs and bills and the fact that June will probably never want to go to school again.)

I just hope and pray that June’s mother’s illness is in remission… Otherwise we’ll probably have to get a Wonder Park 2, and I cannot cope with that.

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