Splendiferous! That is the everlasting battle cry of the precocious animals who inhabit Wonderland. Get used to it, you’re going to hear it a whole lot. It may be the only thing you take away from Wonder Park, which finally brings the box art of a Roller Coaster Tycoon knockoff to the silver screen. A script so spastic that it forgets its own title. A group of characters so flat that 3-D can only give them one dimension. A film about creative inspiration that has absolutely none.
Things start out splendiferous enough, with a fairly engrossing story of a wonder kid grappling with the loss of childhood innocence. You see, June (Brianna Denski) and her unnamed mother (Jennifer Garner, presumably because Judy Greer was unavailable) created a Wonderland as a creative channel for June’s engineering skills. She’s a dedicated gal, nearly tearing up the entire neighborhood to test her inventions. Thankfully, her family has an endless bank account to pay for both property damages and treatment for Mom’s disease that will keep her away from home for a while. Watching June start to lose her innocence and creativity is genuinely heartbreaking, teasing a mature tone that could send us in a slightly better direction. However, when Judy decides to ditch Math Camp to take care of her dad (Matthew Broderick), she starts to have a psychotic breakdown in the woods where the theme park and talking animals she created comes to life. This is where the film, dare I say, goes off the rails.
You see, Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), Steve (John Oliver) Greta (Mila Kunis) and company find themselves locked in a battle with “the darkness.” Without a single idea between their indistinguishable minds, they turn to June to help them save their simian leader Peanut (Norbert Butz) and get the park up and running.
This is where we should start to fall in love with the June’s creations, but there is nothing to love about them. Each one has a shtick, and all of their interactions consist of them…doing that…while barely acknowledging the others’ presence. Greta snorts and gives orders, Boomer switches between yelling and falling asleep, Steve makes PG rated John Oliver jokes, so on and so forth. In a movie that would bother to remember that it’s called Wonder Park and not Wonderland, each of these characters would represent a different part of June’s personality or insecurity. They would bond as their clashing personalities help her find a complete person lying underneath. It would be a story about how grief manifests itself in different ways — hold on — Boomer is asleep again — be right back.
We’re treated to one bombastic action sequence after another. Each one is such a cacophony of lights, colors, flailing limbs, and screaming (so much screaming) that we cannot take in the admittedly inventive designs that lie within wonderland. We’re falling into lava pits, spinning through loopty loops and bobbing through quantum realm esque bubble worlds but you wouldn’t know it. There’s never a moment where we get to soak these worlds in. We’re just racing through them, being chased by small toys that “the darkness” spawns whenever the movie gets bored. It gives us so much to look at and yet continually shows us nothing.
Perhaps I’m being a bit mean to a film that just wants its preteen audience to have something to scream along too while basking in their sugar high. After all, kids don’t get nearly enough mindless stimulation from the Netflix babysitter that only charges twenty dollars a month. Kids don’t think. They run around, munch on junk food, and yell gobbledygook that isn’t worth listening too. Why should we challenge that? It’s cute. After all, the last Pixar movie they saw made them cry, and wedging your way our of that whole ordeal was real hard. Don’t worry, with films like Wonder Park, you’ll be able to keep them nice and sheltered for a little while longer. Splendiferous!