(2019) Animated Feature (Paramount) Starring the voices of Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, Matthew Broderick, Sofia Mali, Oev Michael Urbas, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Kevin Chamberlin, Kath Soucie. Directed by Dylan Brown, Clare Kilner, Robert Iscove and David Feiss
A nice concept is torpedoed by weak execution in this troubled production that comes to us via Paramount’s subsidy Nickelodeon Films. June (Denski) is a wildly creative and smart 10-year-old who for years has along with her mother (Garner) worked on creating a fantastic theme park with improbable rides and stuffed animals come to life running the place. Then, mom gets a serious illness and has to go away for treatment, while Dad (Broderick) ships her off to math camp. Worried that her Dad won’t be able to fend for himself, June runs away from camp and finds in the surrounding woods an overgrown, derelict version of the park she and her mom created. The animals – now life-sized and able to talk – are trying to fend off a horde of zombie stuffed animal monkeys and a mysterious storm that threatens to destroy the park completely. June will need to find a way to prevent that.
The design of the park, with delightful Rube Goldberg-esque rides, is actually mesmerizing and the bright colors make for some serious eye candy. Unfortunately, the attempts to bring in serious subjects – in particular dealing with the potential loss of a parent – aren’t handled very well and end up being disconnected with the issues facing the park. Add to this one-dimensional characters who aren’t given a whole lot to do and you end up with a truly disappointing kid’s film that could have been so much more.
REASONS TO SEE: The design of the park itself is splendiferous.
REASONS TO AVOID: A cliché plot with no memorable characters to rescue it.
FAMILY VALUES There are some mild thematic elements that might be too much for the smaller set.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Brown was removed as director following accusations of sexual misconduct near the end of production. Although uncredited, Kilner, Iscove and Feiss oversaw the remainder of the production. None of the directors are given screen credit, something that the Directors Guild of America almost never allows.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/28/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 34% positive reviews; Metacritic: 45/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Neverending Story
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT: Autumn Road