Since 1996, Nickelodeon has released around 40 films in theaters, many of them based on pre-existing animated shows like “Rugrats” or “Spongebob.” But Nick’s newest film “Wonder Park” is an original film that the studio plans to turn into its own series sometime in the near future, similar to what they did with “Jimmy Neutron” back in the early 2000s. Will this film create enough hype to make sure that the upcoming series will be a success? Don’t hold your breath.
“Wonder Park” is an animated film directed by “Cow and Chicken” creator David Feiss and includes voice actors Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, Ken Jeong and John Oliver. It tells the story of a young girl named June who builds an imaginary theme park with her mother, full of talking animals and amazing rides. But when her mother gets really sick, June decides she doesn’t want to play with the theme park anymore and destroys it. On her way to camp one day, she discovers that the theme park might not be as imaginary as she thought, and now she must help the animals save the park from being absorbed into a black hole. Will she be able to save the park in time?
When I was walking into the press screening, two of the ushers were talking about how the movie was bad, the jokes were unfunny, but you would probably enjoy it if you were 6 years old. This obviously put a bad taste in my mouth, but I told myself that maybe they were wrong, and I would end up enjoying the movie. After 85 minutes, I found out that they were right. This movie is bad. It’s boring and unfunny. The star-studded voice cast is completely wasted since none of them were given anything to work with.
The plot structure is all over the place. The first act of the film sets up multiple storylines that don’t go anywhere, and the following two acts barely have any story at all. You could easily skip the first two scenes of the film, and it wouldn’t feel like you missed anything important. The movie never does anything to fully establish the characters in the park, and you don’t really care about what happens to them. June doesn’t appear to learn any major life lessons besides to never lose her sense of wonder, which is the lesson she would have learned regardless of the film’s ending.
The animation feels so uninspired and generic. I didn’t mind it at first, because in my mind, it looked like a direct-to-DVD movie that somehow got a theatrical release and probably only cost the studio about $10 million. But then I looked up the movie’s budget and found out it cost the studio $100 million! How the heck could a movie this bland cost so much? To put this in perspective, Netflix’s “Next Gen” cost only $30 million, “The Lego Movie” cost $60 million and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” cost $90 million. All three of those films look amazing, but the human characters in “Wonder Park” look like background extras from a DreamWorks movie. For a movie that builds itself on the idea of creativity, it doesn’t feel like the filmmakers did enough to actually capture the imagination of a young girl building her own amusement park.
The park is called (drumroll please) Wonderland. That’s right, the name of the park isn’t the same name as the movie itself. It almost feels like they wrote the script under the name Wonderland, realized that if they called it that people might think the movie would be about Alice in Wonderland, so they crossed out the word “land” on the title page and wrote “park” but forgot that they needed to change the name every time it was in the script.
In other words, don’t see it. Just watch “Alice in Wonderland,” or “The Wizard of Oz,” or “The NeverEnding Story,” or “Pan’s Labyrinth” or “Spirited Away.” All of these films took a similar premise and actually did something creative with it. The only thing this movie will make you wonder is how this movie got greenlit.