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'Wonder Park' review: Not worth the visit

An 8-year-old girl's imagination brings "Wonder Park" to

An 8-year-old girl's imagination brings "Wonder Park" to life. Photo Credit: Paramount Animation

PLOT A girl’s imaginary theme park comes to life.

CAST Brianna Denski, John Oliver, Mila Kunis

RATED PG (mild scares)

LENGTH 1:25

BOTTOM LINE Colorful, but structurally unsound. Not worth the visit.

“Wonder Park,” the animated story of an inventive little girl who discovers that her imaginary theme park really does exist, is filled with fanciful roller coasters, populated by talking animals and generally calculated to appeal to a very young audience. There’s a big difference between childlike and childish, however, and “Wonder Park” doesn’t quite seem to understand it.

Written by Josh Applebaum and André Nemec, “Wonder Park” feels slightly off from the very start, when it drops us in the middle of “the most splendiferous park ever.” As wide-eyed tourists mill about, we notice a few odd details. For starters, the spired castle, quaint main street and futuristic dome recall a well-known attraction in Orlando. Then there’s the staff, who are not humans but animals: Greta, a matriarchal boar (the voice of Mila Kunis); Boomer, “the welcome bear” (Ken Hudson Campbell); Steve, an intelligent porcupine (John Oliver); and Peanut, a charismatic chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz). What exactly is this place?

It exists in the mind of June (Brianna Denski), a grade-schooler who — once she grows out of her stuffed-animal phase — might have a future in the roller-coaster industry. When June’s mother (Jennifer Garner) falls ill, the girl bitterly packs away her dreams. Later, though, she wanders into the woods and finds that Wonder Park really does exist. Now neglected and rusty, it needs its creator’s spark to return to its former glory.

This Paramount-Nickelodeon production feels built with Pixar scraps, and the construction is awfully wobbly. The characters seem randomly generated, the storyline meanders and the park isn’t unique or distinctive; it has no theme. The film’s most misguided creation might be Peanut, a chimp who has been fashioned into something like a romantic lead, with dreamy blue eyes and a decidedly adult voice. Why would June, an 8-year-old, invent this furry Chris Pine?

“Wonder Park” is the rare film to arrive in theaters without a directing credit. The original director, Dylan Brown (a Pixar alum), reportedly was fired from the production following accusations of sexual misconduct, but no replacement was ever announced. Is it even possible to make a movie without a director? Apparently, yes, and the result is “Wonder Park.”


 

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