Wonder Park (Photo: Paramount)

WONDER PARK
*1/2 (out of four)
STARS Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick

“So did Wonder Park direct itself?” might be the expected sneer from any moviegoer alert enough to notice that the new animated feature has no helmer listed in its credits. The truth of the matter is that Dylan Brown directed the film, but after he was accused by various women of inappropriate sexual advances as the movie neared completion, Paramount opted to fire him and release the picture without a directorial tag.

In this new era in which many are striving to be more socially responsible, it was a necessary removal, and it’s perhaps ironic that it was from a film about a bright girl who fights hard not to let her emotions and imagination be damaged by the people and circumstances surrounding her.

The child is June (voiced by Brianna Denski), whose loving mom (Jennifer Garner) has joined her daughter in creating (via drawings, models and pure imagination) Wonder Park, an amusement park run by anthropomorphic animals like the chimpanzee Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), the boar Greta (Mila Kunis), and the porcupine Steve (John Oliver). But once June’s mom takes ill and has to leave home for medical attention, June becomes increasingly depressed and inconsolable, worrying her father (Matthew Broderick) and her friends. And when June stumbles across an actual Wonderland just like the one from her mind’s eye, she notices that it’s no longer a place of joy, as Peanut has gone missing and the other park denizens are having to contend with an army of chimpanzombies.

A product of the Nickelodeon studio, Wonder Park of course has a gentle and positive message at its center — aside from the X-rated Fritz the Cat, what animated film doesn’t? — but it counts for little when cushioned in a film as blasé as this one. The story isn’t particularly interesting, the critters aren’t exactly engaging, and the animation isn’t especially appealing. Peanut the chimpanzee is particularly on the creepy side, appearing less likely to play with the kiddies and more likely to whip out a razor like the capuchin in George Romero’s Monkey Shines and start slashing everything in sight.

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