Arts

Animated fantasy Wonder Park low on enchantment

Damon Smith reviews computer-animated fantasy Wonder Park featuring the voices of Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Tom Baker, Mila Kunis and John Oliver

Undated film still handout from Wonder Park. Pictured: June Bailey (voiced by Brianna Denski) and best friend Bunky (Oev Michae Urbas). See PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Paramount Animation/Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews.
Damon Smith

AN IMAGINATIVE girl discovers the theme park from her bedtime stories is real in a computer-animated fantasy co-directed by Robert Iscove, David Feiss and Clare Kilner.

Wonder Park conjures an intriguing premise as the emotionally brittle heroine tries to make sense of knotty philosophical questions posed by scriptwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

"Oooh an existential crisis. I knew this day was missing something," deadpans a lovestruck porcupine, delivering one crisp aside that will fly over the heads of the target audience.

Unfortunately, Iscove, Feiss and Kilner's rollicking escapade doesn't have the courage of its clumsily articulated convictions, undermining central messages of courage and perseverance with a manipulative final flourish that feels like a big dramatic cheat.

Former Timelord Tom Baker and social media darlings Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee perform robust vocal duties, trading verbal quips in the guise of anthropomorphised critters with Hollywood stars Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner and Matthew Broderick.

From an early age, June Bailey (voiced by Brianna Denski) has spun tall tales with her mother (Garner) about a magical theme park run by her menagerie of stuffed animals.

Peanut the chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz) creates rides in Wonderland, Steve the porcupine (John Oliver) oversees safety and Boomer the blue bear (Baker) welcomes guests, when he's not abruptly falling asleep as a result of "late onset hibernation disorder".

Greta the wild boar (Kunis) keeps spirits afloat as beaver mechanics Gus (Sugg) and Cooper (Lee) remedy malfunctions on the attractions.

Fantastical tales of Wonderland inspire June to create daredevil rides in her backyard with the help of smitten best friend Bunky (Oev Michael Urbas).

When Mrs Bailey falls ill and seeks hospital treatment, June abandons happy thoughts of Wonderland and seeks solace in the arms of her distraught father (Broderick).

Soon after, the girl returns home early from a school trip to mathematics camp and stumbles upon the vine-covered ruins of the real Wonderland.

The place of June's dreams exists but it has fallen into dangerous disrepair as a result of her all-consuming sadness.

The plucky girl joins forces with Peanut, Boomer and co to restore the park before an army of Chimpanzombies can tear apart the fixtures and fittings and fling them into a swirling vortex called the Darkness.

As a visual spectacle, Wonder Park proffers fast-paced sequences including a runaway rollercoaster ride that should whiten young knuckles in 3D.

Punchlines are hit and miss, erring more towards the latter, but the running time is trim and June and her four-legged pals don't outstay their welcome.

Above and beyond the colour-saturated eye candy, the film is disappointingly short of awe and wonder.

WONDER PARK (PG, 85 mins) Animation/Drama/Action/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Norbert Leo Butz, Tom Baker, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Joe Sugg, Caspar Lee, Oev Michael Urbas. Directors: Robert Iscove, David Feiss, Clare Kilner.

RATING: 5/10

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