Wonder Park (3 stars)

Wonder Park

Jennifer Garner lends her voice to this animated adventure about a troubled young girl

Wonder Park is a computer-animated adventure with big ideas. It sees June, a young girl with an ailing mother, destroy the miniature theme park they've meticulously built together, only to find herself living inside it. The latest from Paramount Animation aims to get into a troubled youngster's head in an attempt to emulate the diverting complexity of Pixar's Up and Inside Out, with their striking, kid-friendly treatments of challenging themes.

With her mother (Jennifer Garner) seeking off-screen medical assistance, June (voiced first by Sofia Mali and then Brianna Denski) faces being shipped off to math camp. In a fit of pique, she throws their beloved theme park model into the fireplace, triggering her entry to a parallel universe, where animals run the various rides and shows. The amiable critters are fighting a war against the mindless 'Chimpanzombie' hordes, which are destroying the park. To set things right, June has to recapture the sense of childlike wonder which created this world.

In its imaginatively constructed alternate universe, Wonder Park resembles the Wreck-It Ralph and Lego Movie franchises. The gravity of the real-world content may put some kids off, but this might also attract thoughtful parents looking for transitional routes towards serious themes. Both landscapes are sharply drawn, with June's suburban life in sharp contrast with the elaborate, abstract carnival shape of the park itself, with delightful designs for the rides. The notion of recapturing a childlike outlook is a rich one, and it's hard to begrudge the sentiment in a narrative that so warmly savours a mother's kiss for her child.

Wonder Park's title, never used in the film, is only one of a series of omissions that suggest a difficult creative process; the lack of an official director's credit is another. (It was helmed by former Pixar animator Dylan Brown, who was ultimately dismissed from the production.) But these flaws shouldn't really hinder appreciation for a slight but rewardingly bittersweet experience.

General release from Mon 8 Apr.

Wonder Park

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • Spain / US
  • PG
  • Cast: Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell
  • UK release: 8 April 2019

June (Mali and Denski) is faced with being shipped off to math camp while her mother (Garner) seeks medical assistance; then she finds herself in a parallel universe where she has to save a theme park. An animated film with big ideas and some notable omissions, ultimately a slight but rewardingly bittersweet experience.