‘Won­der Park’ mixes fan­tasy and re­al­ism

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv - BY JAY BOBBIN

Cer­tainly, there has been no short­age of an­i­mated movies lately, so one that has the ti­tle “Won­der Park” had bet­ter deliver on the won­ders it prom­ises.

The pic­ture gets there a fair amount of the way, and it should be noted up front that it has a rather un­set­tling un­der­cur­rent in the ill­ness suf­fered by the cen­tral char­ac­ter’s mother (voiced by Jen­nifer Garner). Sen­si­tive young­sters could be quite up­set by that el­e­ment, which might over­shadow the pos­si­ble en­joy­ment of any­thing that fol­lows, so par­ents are well-ad­vised to be pre­pared for that.

Mom and her daugh­ter June (whose voice is supplied by Bri­anna Den­ski) have con­jured up shared thoughts of a fan­tas­tic amuse­ment park called Won­der­land, where vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble. Af­ter her mother’s med­i­cal sit­u­a­tion prompts her fa­ther (voiced by Matthew Brod­er­ick) to send June to camp, the girl de­cides to go AWOL en route and ul­ti­mately ends up at – chances are good that you’ll guess this – the ac­tual Won­der­land.

How­ever, the place isn’t quite as mag­i­cal as she and Mom en­vi­sioned it. It’s in con­sid­er­able dis­ar­ray, and the an­i­mals that staff it (with voices supplied by Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong and “Satur­day Night Live’s” Ke­nan Thomp­son, among oth­ers) can use all the help in restor­ing it that they can get. En­ter June, and the road to re­cov­ery be­gins, of course.

Co-pro­duced by the ca­ble net­work Nick­elodeon, “Won­der Park” keeps pace with the kinds of vi­su­als one might ex­pect from a movie by its name. De­spite the run­down look of the place in the mid­dle por­tion, the seg­ments that book­end it re­flect a child’s (and, for that mat­ter, a fam­ily’s) de­light, sup­ply­ing all the fun and es­capism that any­one could hope for.

And yet, the re­al­ism brought into “Won­der Park” makes it a mixed ex­pe­ri­ence. Not only is there the mother’s sit­u­a­tion in story terms, but be­hind the scenes, al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct by the di­rec­tor led to the re­moval of his name from the film. It’s been re­leased without any di­rec­to­rial credit, some­thing very un­usual in an in­dus­try that in­voked the pseu­do­nym “Alan Smithee” (or “Allen Smithee” in some cases) for many years to cover for a film­maker whose name was taken off a pic­ture for one rea­son or another.

While the an­i­mated won­ders it puts forth are within rea­son, “Won­der Park” has more to it, and how that im­pacts one’s over­all im­pres­sion of the movie likely will de­pend on the in­di­vid­ual viewer. And, quite pos­si­bly, the viewer’s age.

“Won­der Park”

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