a critiQal film review Wonder Park (2019)

Plot: The story of a magnificent amusement park where the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June (Denski) comes alive.

511 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 33s)
  • ...seems to be undecided where its main audience lies - and ultimately misses the mark with both youngsters and adults.

With a new animated film hitting home video recently, it seemed like my next movie review was easy: Wonder Park. But, would this non-Disney animated film be worth the time, or is this another one that’s just a Disney pretender?

To begin with, the voice cast in Wonder Park is solid. While familiar voices like Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick and Mila Kunis (among others) provide a familiarity without conjuring up the faces for the viewer, John Oliver is the real stand-out as Steve the porcupine. Thankfully, June, the main character, is voiced by a relative unknown, Brianna Denski, so the viewer can concentrate on the story line when it’s important, rather than trying to place the voice.

At first, it seems like the story behind Wonder Park is worth the time to tune in to. With more mature issues facing the main character that cause her to lose her sense of joy and wonderment, it’s something the viewers – both young and old – should be able to relate to on different levels. Unfortunately, this obvious homage to Pixar films like Up (2009) never resonates as well as it did there. It’s as if the filmmakers set up this powerful plot point, then just backed off before making it a memorable piece of the story. That leaves the viewers with an easy to guess – and somewhat dull – process from point A (June’s life) to point B (the Park).

And that’s where Wonder Park gets a bit weird. The characters inside the park aren’t very well fleshed out, and instead are thrown at the viewer quickly, hoping something will stick. While the voice talents do a great deal towards helping make these characters likable, they remain very simplistic, and older viewers will find these characters are rather pedantic and too one-dimensional to be any fun.

Thankfully, the animation is pretty well done throughout all of Wonder Park – both inside and outside of the park itself. While the viewer may find themselves getting a bit lost in the big finale within the park, most of the time the film shifts the focus to the characters within the melee, rather than the melee itself.

Wonder Park, therefore, is a family-friendly movie the whole family will enjoy… somewhat. But, with it’s obvious homages to Pixar’s grand storytelling (and, therefore, inviting comparisons), it will leave many disappointed by just how much this film misses the mark. It’s a kid film that at least starts to tackle tough issues, and then just backs off in the critical moment. On top of that, it tosses in some creepy dangers in the park, and seems to be aiming at a more adult crowd in the very scenes youngsters will have been waiting for.

While it is somewhat entertaining to watch the first time around, Wonder Park probably won’t stand up to repeated viewings to anyone but the youngest crowd. With it’s surprisingly depressing moments and creepy park villains, it seems to be undecided whether it’s aiming for kids or adults – and ends up missing both.

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