Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Lack of subtlety ruins the ride for "Wonder Park"

Mar 15, 2019 01:25AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Mila Kunis, Norbert Leo Butz, Ken Hudson Campbell, Ken Jeong, Kenan Thompson, John Oliver, and Brianna Denski in Wonder Park - © 2019 Paramount.

Wonder Park (Paramount Animation)

Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and action.

Starring (voices of) Brianna Denski, Ken Hudson Campbell, Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Oev Michael Urbas, Norbert Leo Butz, Kevin Chamberlin, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Kath Soucie, Sofia Mali, and Daran Norris.

Written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Robert Gordon.

Directed by Dylan Brown (uncredited).



Kids. They imagine things. So do movie studio people, who like to imagine big piles of money associated with animated features that can be franchised to death. Disney (and Pixar) used to be the only players in the animated cash cow game, but other studios have stepped forward over the past decade to challenge their dominance, including Illumination (Despicable Me/Minions) and Dreamworks (once a subsidiary of Paramount - How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda). Others have seen mild-to-fleeting success (Sony, Blue Sky), while others keep on trying. Paramount has since become one of the smaller players in the animated feature game and their latest attempt Wonder Park probably won’t help them get back into the mix.

Wonder Park is the story of a make-believe amusement park, created through the imagination of the young June (Brianna Denski) and her mother (Jennifer Garner). The park consists of several wild rides, overseen by animal hosts, including a big, blue bear named Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell, a safety-conscious porcupine named Steve (John Oliver), a warthog named Greta (Mila Kunis), two beaver brothers named Gus and Cooper (Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong), and a chimpanzee named Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz), who acts as the park’s primary engineer, receiving direction from the real-life June and her mom. When June’s mom becomes ill and moves away, June falls into darkness and shuts her imaginary park down, even though her dad (Matthew Broderick) tries to get her to have faith in her mother’s recovery. Through some magical series of events, June is transported to the park, which has fallen on tough times due to the darkness. She must find a way to defeat the darkness by seeking Peanut, who has gone missing. If she doesn’t get the parks gears going soon, it will become swallowed up by the darkness.

Wonder Park fails on many levels, even though it has some visual appeal with its animation. The main problem is the story, which lacks any semblance of nuance or subtlety. The ham-fisted and clumsy method of delivering the blatantly obvious message of defeating the “darkness” by keeping innocence and imagination alive keeps all the wonder out of Wonder Park, beating the audience over the head with a series of hackneyed altruisms you’d normally find inside a fortune cookie.

The movie has been in production for more than five years and was further hobbled by the firing of the film’s director (and former Pixar animator) Dylan Brown, who was accused of sexual harassment just over a year ago. In fact, no one is given credit for directing Wonder Park, begging the question: who would want to take credit for this forgettable animated feature? Alan Smithee?

It looks like Paramount has a lot more work to do before the studio can stake another claim in the animated feature market.    

Wonder Park Trailer