Wonder Park, the animated feature from screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) takes a shot at tackling a complex subject for children. Unfortunately, it falls short of the mark in this mixed-bag effort.
June (Sofia Mali) has a close relationship with her Mom (Jennifer Garner), centered on the use of creativity and imagination. Together, they have created Wonderland, an amusement park that defies both imagination and physics. When her Mom becomes gravely ill and must go away for treatment, the now older June (Brianna Denski) retreats into herself despite the best efforts of her Dad (Matthew Broderick). When she discovers that the fantasy world she created with her mother actually exists, she must find the strength to eliminate the darkness within the park and within herself.
It is unfortunate that screenwriters with a history of decent work have turned in such a novice effort by comparison. The entire film feels more like a concept than a complete effort. Most of the characters have just enough development to make them annoying, rather than endearing. Understandably, the focus is on June and her journey, but there isn't enough support from the supporting characters to make them really matter.
There isn't a whole lot to be said for any aspect of the film. The direction is average, as are the acting, animation, cinematography, and score. While it isn't a bad film, there just isn't anything that makes it stand out from the crowd, either. The film's message comes in polar moments - either too obscured in the story for it to show, or directly in your face through less-than-subtle dialogue. In this, it seems that Wonder Park cannot decide what age group is its intended target, so it just keeps swinging and missing.
Younger children will enjoy the glitz and glitter, while their parents will appreciate the lack of a particularly scary villain. Older children will understand a bit more of the message, likely at the expense of entertainment. This is unfortunate because the meaning behind the story could have been relevant with just a little more consciousness to the writing.