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Blu-ray Review: Wonder Park

June 18, 2019

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

A little girl named June Bailey (Brianna Denski) has the magical amusement park from her imagination suddenly become real in Wonder Park, a mediocre new film from Paramount’s animation division that is mildly amusing at times but fails to really live up to its high concept premise.

June spent years developing blueprints for the imaginary Wonderland with her mother (Jennifer Garner). The two of them would spend hours together coming up with ideas for increasingly wild rides, and imagining a world where June’s menagerie of stuffed animals are in charge, led by a chimp named Peanut (Nerbert Leo Butz) who can bring any of their ideas to life with his magic marker.

But when her mother gets sick and goes away to get treatment, June ends up burning the elaborate map and plans for the park. Her father (Matthew Broderick) sends her to math camp, but she escapes from the bus and runs into the woods, where she ends up finding the entrance to Wonderland. But things have gone dark at the park, with a storm cloud looming above threatening its very existence.

The grounds have been overrun by a horde of creepy “Chimpanzombies” – the park’s souvenir plush toys sprung to life – and Peanut and his magic marker have disappeared. Now June must work alongside her other stuffed animal friends, including a bear named Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell) who keeps falling asleep; the hyperactive beaver brothers Gus (Kenan Thompson) and Cooper (Ken Jeong); a nervous porcupine named Steve (John Oliver); and the wild boar Greta (Mila Kunis), who has become the de facto leader in Peanut’s absence, in order to save the park.

While this premise did have potential, the biggest problem with Wonder Park is that it feels rushed and underdeveloped. If it had been handled better, the story of a girl using her imagination to process real world pain could have actually led somewhere special. But the film ends up feeling more like a series of half-formed ideas, and the characters are mostly generic which makes it hard for us to get truly invested in their plight. The film even tries to deliver an Up-inspired montage at the beginning showing June’s imaginary project growing bigger as her mother gets sicker, but these attempts to ring tears from the audience feel shallow and largely ring hollow.

The unevenness of the finished product is not entirely shocking considering the fact that there is no director credited on the film, with Dylan Brown, a former Pixar animator who was set to make his directorial debut, having been fired from the project partway through production due to allegations of inappropriate conduct. Jeffrey Tambor was also originally set to voice Boomer, but was replaced for similar reasons. I wasn’t really aware of this drama that went on behind the scenes before watching Wonder Park, but there is a sense of incompleteness that is felt in the finished film.

There are a few amusing moments here and some flashes of imagination in the design of the film, but the whole thing ends up feeling sort of haphazard in its assembly, almost as if the screenwriters Josh Applebaum and Anrdé Nemec, who are also credited as producers and presumably helped take over in the director’s absence, just tried to rush the film through completion in hopes that its target audience wouldn’t notice the bumps along the way. The film does move quickly, and I do think kids will enjoy the colourfulness and fast pace of it all, but there are a lot of better animated films out there.

The Blu-ray also includes a selection of extras, starting with a fully animated deleted scene entitled Gus Yodeling. This is followed by The Wonder Chimp Channel, a sort of random piece done in the style of a fake TV broadcast; The Pi Song Sing-Along, featuring onscreen lyrics to an earworm that is sung in the film; Making Noises (It’s Actually a Job?!!), a jokey featurette with members of the all-star voice cast talking about their roles; June’s Guide to Wonderland, which features the character briefly describing the different places in the park; June’s Welcoming Crew, which intros the different characters; and Boardwalk Caricatures, a trio of drawing tutorials for three of the characters.

Wonder Park is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 85 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: June 18th, 2019

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