Facebook Twitter

WONDER PARK: 3 ½ STARS. “most poignant movie starring a talking porcupine.”

If nothing else the new animated film “Wonder Park” will teach kids how to use and possibly overuse the word “splendiferous.” Good lessons on self reliance and facing fears abound, but “splendiferous” appears so many times it’s as if the screenwriters earned a bonus every time a character utters it.

Precocious ten-year old June (Brianna Denski) spends most of her days hanging out in a world of imagination. Encouraged by her loving mother (Jennifer Garner), June is a mini P.T. Barnum, inventing a fantasy theme park, Wonderland, “the most splendiferous park ever,” using nothing but bendy-straws, stuffed animals like her monkey Peanut and her creativity.

When her mother falls ill and has to be hospitalized June puts away childish things, putting Peanut and all of Wonderland into boxes. Looking after her father she becomes obsessed with running the house. Concerned he cannot survive without her, she plays hooky from math camp, creating a diversion so she can get of the bus and cut through the woods to get home. On the way she discovers a discarded amusement park ride that transports her into the land of her imagination.

But things aren’t quite how she imagined them. Her beloved stuffed animal mascots are on the run from hoards of chimpanzombies determined to destroy the park. As the architect of the park her imagination will be put to the test as she searches for a way to restore harmony to her beloved Wonderland.

Even at just one hour and twenty-six minutes “Wonder Park” feels padded. Music montages and several frenetic action scenes stretch the story to feature length but there is much to like nonetheless. Good messages about the power of imagination to help work through life’s challenging moments and self-belief are sincere and powerful—“There is wonder in all of us!”—but it is the film’s willingness to expand beyond the eye-distracting action scenes into more personal territory that earns it a recommend.

The mother’s illness sub-plot is handled subtly and carefully but drives the entire story. “I got so scared of losing her,” June says, “that I lost myself.” It’s poignant and more heart-tugging than you might expect from a movie featuring a talking porcupine (John Oliver, doing some fun voice work).

“Wonder Park” is a movie that respects its audience. That understands children can handle complex ideas about real life and for that, it is splendiferous.

Comments are closed.