In the last decade or so, the quality of animated children's films has skyrocketed. These films have gone past the childish humour and wonderment and entered territories that deal with difficult and heavy themes while still maintaining the perspective of a child. Will 'Wonder Park’ be able to rise to the heights of it's critically acclaimed contemporaries or fall to depths of direct-to-DVD garbage?
'Wonder Park’ centres around June, a young girl with a penchant for amusement parks. Immediately one can see how her character is this film's paragon of creativity, imagination and excitement. Her story sees herself stumble across an amusement park in the woods, where anything she can imagine becomes a part of the park, including animated dancing friends. However, there is also a much darker story at play behind this, one that deals with ideas of loss and emotional connections from the point of view of a child.
Quite frankly, I didn't expect much from this film going in, and not much is exactly what I got. The film feels like a hyperactive, poorly paced adaptation of 'My Neighbor Totoro’ with absolutely none of the innocence, childlike or originality charm of that film. For starters, June as a character, while inspiring is horribly bland and as a viewer, you could literally not care less about her or her motivations until the poorly executed and cliched emotional gut-punch of the film that is literally just the “my family member has a life-threatening illness” trope. Which is just absolutely disappointing as a plot point. Like June, her talking animal friends are just as bland and watching them just feels like watching off-brand versions of good characters from better movies that actually make you care about them. The film's ridiculous villains even feel like knock-off Minions. Do you realize how hard it is to make a worse version of something horrible?
The only truly good part of this film which I can appreciate is its animation. In every frame, 'Wonder Park’ does an excellent job of keeping viewers absorbed into the world, but that is the standard of animation in 2019, and if a production house cannot match up the bare minimum of decent animation, it should be binned. That being said the one thing this film has going for it is literally what it needs to be an animated feature.
This movie, will only truly be enjoyable for kids below the age of 10 that are just looking for a way to waste away their afternoon. But if you do have the time, please do go watch a better, more enjoyable film that isn't just a visual pacifier.