Wonder Park - It's Anything But Wonderous!

Wonder Park features the voices of Brianna Denski, Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kath Soucie, David Cross, Norbert Leo Butz, and Kevin Chamberlin.

June lives with her mother and father in a suburban neighborhood, and dreams of bringing her fantasy theme park, Wonderland, to life. She loses interest in the park when her mother becomes ill, and becomes something of an overprotective figure to her father, deserting a camp bus to return to him and make sure she’s all right. But when she cuts through the woods, she finds her dream theme park and its animal residents have become a reality, but it’s a gloomy place shrouded in darkness. June must work together with the park’s animals to overcome this threat, and bring things back to the light.

3D animated movies are a dime a dozen these days. Wonder Park features a likeable young heroine, a solid voiceover cast, and adequate colorful animation, which are likely to appeal to children. Unfortunately, the experience is derailed by a bland, paint-by-numbers story, weak writing and logic, and messages for children which are highly questionable.

I’ll at least give Wonder Park credit for what it does well. The voice cast includes newcomer Brianna Denski as our heroine June, who is funny and sympathetic alike. Other actors include Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Garner as her parents, and animal characters played by the likes of Kenan Thompson and Mila Kunis. It’s a good-looking colorful film as well, with the visuals sure to appeal to children.

So, where does Wonder Park, pardon the bad pun, go off the rails?

It’s a paint-by-numbers “believe in yourself” lesson featuring June coming to terms with events in her life, and it’s a shame to see such a fantastic cast wasted on so pedestrian a story, all wrapped up in a bow with an all-too-convenient happy ending.

By far the biggest weakness of Wonder Park is the questionable lessons it offers children. Early in the film, the over-eager June creates a roller coaster in her backyard, after which chaos ensues around the neighborhood (this one sequence is easily the best thrill the movie has to offer). Her father is forced to write the neighbors checks to cover the damage. June’s mother seems angry, and tells her she’ll be doing many chores to pay off everything she’s done… and disciplining her is never mentioned again. She’s essentially let off with a slap on the wrist. Her parents not only don’t punish her; they further continue encouraging this outrageous behavior, even letting her turn the family house into a makeshift Wonderland, complete with roller coaster cars going down the stairs. At the end of the movie, the parent’s attitude towards this hasn’t changed. It creates unrealistic hopes and expectations in children, who’ll likely be puzzled when they get punished for mimicking June’s behavior in the film, as they see it unfold on screen without consequence. Had I committed these same acts as a child, I would have been grounded indefinitely and thoroughly chewed out by my father (curse words likely would have been involved), and certainly not permitted to turn the house into a park, where someone could easily trip and get seriously hurt.

Wonder Park’s solid voice cast and likable protagonist can’t save the movie from being an experience with offers children terrible life lessons and a pedestrian storyline we’ve seen before. It’s fun entertainment for kids, but make sure they know they’ll be punished if they mimic June’s actions, since the film doesn’t lay down the law or any consequences whatsoever.

Rating: One star out of four.

DISCLAIMER: All images are the property of their respective copyright holders, including Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Ilion. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.

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