Paramount Animation opened its doors in 2011, although it wasn’t until last year that they finally debuted their first completely animated film with ‘Sherlock Gnomes’. Now, they are blessing our eyes with their first original film, ‘Wonder Park’.
Mila Kunis (‘Bad Moms’, ‘Jupiter Ascending’) voices a boar that falls in love with a porcupine voiced by John Oliver (‘The Love Guru’, ‘The Smurfs’)... need I say anymore. I have quite a high tolerance for animated kids' films, and while ‘Wonder Park’ isn’t the bottom of the barrel, its definitely very close. It’s 85 minutes of noises and colour in the hope that children will be entertained and buy toys, because god damn they have a TV show based on the movie coming out later this year and they are going to force this down your throat.
Our big dreamer lead is June (Brianna Denski) who uses her toys to build a theme park in her room along with the help of her “sick” mum (Jennifer Garner, ‘Love, Simon’, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’) - please note the very strong quotations marks around sick; her imagination knows no bounds. When the mother has to go away for her mystery illness, her dad (Matthew Broderick, ‘Manchester By The Sea’, ‘Ferris Bueller's Day Off’) puts her into math camp to help distract her, but June runs away to find out that the park of her imagination has come to life.
The rest of the voice cast is rounded out by Ken Hudson Campbell (‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Home Alone’) who voices Boomer the welcome bear and Norbert Leo Butz (TVs ‘Bloodline’, ‘The English Teacher’) who voices Peanut, a chimpanzee that creates all the rides. One trend that I hate is replacing voice actors depending on the country; sometimes it’s fine like what Disney did with ‘Zootopia’, but here it’s bizarre they replaced Kean Thompson and Ken Jeong, two pretty well-known actors, with radio’s Fitzzy and Wippa as the voice of the two beavers. It just doesn't work having these weird beavers with these heavy Australian accents. It would be like replacing Key and Peele with ‘The Project's’ Peter Helliar... oh wait, ‘Storks’ did that. I get it marketing-wise, especially for these smaller animated films, but it just doesn’t work in favour of the film at all. At least we aren’t the UK where the beavers are voiced by the hip and cool YouTubers Jog Sugg and Casper Lee, which sounds painful.
It's also bizarre the film is called ‘Wonder Park’, but the theme park in the movie is called Wonder Land. Why, in the production process did no one go, "hey, doesn’t that remind of you of Alice in Wonderland?". Was it only when the marketing team came in was it when they worked it out they couldn’t call the film 'Wonder Land'? Even in some of the trailers they change lines so the characters are saying ‘Wonder Park’ instead. It’s such a little thing that so easily could have been fixed.
To add even more bizarreness to the ‘Wonder Park’ legend, the film has no credited director. Upon some research it’s because the film’s original director, Dylan Brown, was fired due to inappropriate behaviour, and then Paramount never gave the film a new director. I guess that makes sense why the film is such a mess. Jeffrey Tambor (‘The Death of Stalin’, TVs ‘Arrested Development’) was also originally casted in the film but was fired for similar reasons.
'Wonder Park' isn’t the bottom of the barrel, but it's definitely very close. It’s 85 minutes of noises and colour in the hope that children will be entertained and buy toys.
The animation is fine, but it looks just a step above a Nickelodeon TV show (which I guess is fitting considering their plan with this “franchise”); it's just basic, cheap animation. The credits alone use these terrible animation loops you can see it freezing and restarting, it's just lazy. The character design is just bland colours, the productions design is just an insult to the eyes at times, there is an action scene that takes place on a river of fireworks and it’s just somehow an overload of colour and blandness at the same time. This movie some how cost $80-100 million to make, and most of that had to be the cast and marketing because there is no way it went to animation. By comparison, ‘The Lego Movie’ cost $60 million, and most Disney films cost $150 million.
The plot both moves super-fast and slow simultaneously, it’s bizarre. Every montage has a generic pop song where every second word is wonder. It’s a paint-by-numbers of generic animated children’s film tropes. The big bad in the movie is darkness (a la ‘A Wrinkle in Time’), but sadly there isn’t a giant Oprah in sight who can save them. The film constantly tries to have messages of the importance of family and imagination, but it’s so forced that I don’t think any kids will really learn anything from it.
‘Wonder Park’ badly wants to be the next thing, from its “cute” Wonder-Chimp like ‘Minions’, to every character saying "splendiferous" in an effort to make it the next catchphrase all the kids say. ‘Wonder Park’s' construction crumbles before it’s even begun being built. It’s nowhere near the badness of other kids films like ‘The Emoji Movie’, ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ or even ‘Cars 2’, but I don’t even think it will hold your kids' attention. The kids in my cinema where pretty quiet, not even laughing, just observing what is happening in front of them. Take them to an actual theme park instead.