Verdict: A visually bright film that isn’t afraid to delve into darkness.
Wonder Park has a unique concept that combines a girl’s runaway imagination with her passion for building things that’s reminiscent of cartoons like Phineas and Ferb. But instead of simply showing us an amusement park full of wild rides, the film dares to do something more and tell an emotionally engaging story.
What’s Wonder Park About:
A little girl named June (Brianna Denski) has a wild imagination that she pours into creating an amusement park called Wonderland that she builds with her mother (Jennifer Garner). The park is run by talking animals who are the ‘wonder’ in Wonderland. When June’s mother falls sick and goes away, she puts away everything to do with Wonderland, which makes her father (Matthew Broderick) concerned. Then she’s sent off to Math camp for the summer, from where she runs away to be home, but instead, stumbles upon Wonderland, which happens to be a real place. The only problem? It’s in shambles! The cute “wonderchimps” of the park have turned into “chimpanzombies” and a storm cloud of darkness has taken over. June now has to help the animals fight the darkness and restore Wonderland to its former glory.
The voice cast is packed with great actors who display a wide range of emotions with their performances, especially the ones who play the talking animals. Peanut the charismatic chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz) who is in charge of creating new rides, Boomer the Welcome bear (Ken Hudson Campbell), Steve the anxious porcupine (John Oliver) who is the chief safety officer, two beavers named Gus (Kenan Thompson) and Cooper (Ken Jeong) who are in charge of the park maintenance, and Greta (Mila Kunis) the warthog who leads the group – they all have a greater depth to them than merely being caricatures. They have their strengths as well as weaknesses and they take a life of their own that is separate from what would have come from simply June’s imagination.
June is an interesting character who ends up being incredibly inspiring through the emotional journey that she experiences in the film. Although at first when she deals with grief, she draws away from others and the park that reminds her of her mother, she eventually learns that changing herself is not the answer. Wonder Park manages to show these lessons through the way that the June and the talking animals have to rebuild the park, which in itself is incredibly cool. The amusement park has rides that even adults would want to try out – from the zero-gravity area to a carousel with flying fish. The animation has been done brilliantly and immerses you into the world of Wonder Park where everything is possible and even when things get scary along the way, there is always a light of hope at the end of the ride.
What Could’ve Been Better:
The film gets a bit too dark at times while dealing with the heavy themes, but it portrays them in a realistic way that might be an avenue for opening up a conversation with younger children about the healthy ways of managing grief.
Why You Should Watch:
The film is as wonderful as it is deep – it has a rollercoaster of emotions that will tug on your heartstrings. With stunning performances by the voice cast, well-developed characters, top-notch animation, and an optimistic message, Wonder Park brims with earnestness.