Animated Movies, Indie-mation, Paramount Animation, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Wonder Park’

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I must admit when I signed on to review Wonder Park, I was very hopeful it would be a under-the-radar film I could really champion. It looked like it might be a special film like Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero or The Son of Bigfoot–both movies I love and was proud to review here on Rotoscopers. Unfortunately I walked away from Wonder Park with very mixed feelings, which is the most challenging kind of film to write about. It’s not awful. In fact, it had many sweet and wonderful aspects to it, but I also had major issues particularly with the animation that kept me from completely embracing the film.

Let’s talk about the positives, which are many. First of all, I liked the lead protagonist June voiced by Brianna Denski. She’s creative and fun, but also has a darker side such as being unkind to friends, depressed, and sarcastic. Some may find her unlikable, but I appreciated the script kept her a complex character.

June also has a wonderful character imagination. With her mother’s (Jennifer Garner) encouragement, she has designed a fantasy amusement park they call ‘Wonderland’ (the park is never referred to in the film as Wonder Park, which is kind of strange). When her mother gets sick, June struggles to express her emotions and ends up alone in a forest and stumbles upon the park of her imagination. All the rides and characters are there but there is a black cloud over everything and they must work together to save Wonderland and help June to get her confidence back.

All of these story and character elements are really lovely and the voice cast is excellent including Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, John Oliver and more.

Now let’s get to the parts I did not like. I saw Wonder Park in 2D and I have no idea why they made this choice for the screening because it is obviously made for 3D. There were so many shots that looked like they were taken with a fish-eye camera lens. People and animals faces were often close up against the screen and morphed into strange proportions. The characters all have the giant eyes we often see in CGI-animated films, but the way they made the shot selection made all the facial features feel large and rather garish. Often I wanted to yell to the camera to take a step back. Let us actually see the characters interacting with their environment not just mugging at the camera.

The moments where they do allow a little exploration of the park can be quite magical but then the characters start talking and it is back to our poor choices. Most people will probably not find this problematic, but it really bothered me.

The sad part is the animation kept me from enjoying the sweet moments and the heart put into the script. The first Nut Job had this same problem but the humor was more obnoxious in that film than in Wonder Park (and characters were less well written).

I know there will be people who see Wonder Park and think it is really great. They won’t notice the animation problems like I did and will get caught up in the sweet story, but I can only comment on my experience. It was very distracting for me so I can’t recommend the film. If you do see it definitely watch it in 3D as it is clearly designed for that experience.

★★1/2

If you see Wonder Park let me know what you think. I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below. 

Edited by: Morgan Stradling

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel is a rottentomatoes approved film critic and podcaster. She loves all things animation and does a monthly podcast on classic Disney films and on obscure animation at Rachel's Reviews. She also is the founder and lead host of The Hallmarkies Podcast. She grew up with mainstream classics like The Little Mermaid and The Simpsons but also loves indie and anime fare like Song of the Sea and Your Name. Most important to her is discussing all kinds of film and TV shows with her friends and all of you. Follow Rachel on twitter at @rachel_reviews and on her blog rachelsreviews.net