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Movie Review

Mom knows how to whisper the wonder.

June loves a lot of things about her young life: She’s crazy about her friends—especially her good and loyal best bud Banky. She’s over the moon about her wonderful parents. And … she just can’t get enough of an imaginary amusement park called Wonderland and the stuffed animal friends who inhabit it.

Sure, that last part is all fantasy, but it’s the kind of make- believe that soars and swoops in her mind’s eye. When she and her mom sit down on her bedroom floor and dream up magical rides and attractions, when they cut things out of construction paper together and make glittery posters and crazy contraptions out of discarded soda straws, snippets of ribbon and bits of cardboard, well, June’s mind simply glows with the creative joy of it all.

And best of all, most magical of magical, is the moment when Mom always leans over with an elfish grin and whispers all their newly devised Wonderland plans into the ear of June’s little stuffed monkey, Peanut. For in that marvelous imaginary wonderland, Peanut is the park’s creative director.

After hearing Mom’s magical whispers, he’ll raise his marker in the air and call out, “Splendiferous!” Then he’ll magically create the latest merry-go-round made of flying fish, or the newest water slide constructed from licorice sticks.

But when Mom unexpectedly grows sick, June’s world is suddenly thrown off balance. Dad and the doctors say that Mom only has to go off to the special hospital for a short while, to help her get better, but it’s still upsetting. And it’s unclear when—or if—Mom will be coming home.

And how can there be a Wonderland, how can there be wonder if Mom isn’t there to whisper it?

Positive Elements

The overarching lesson for kids here is that bad things can and do happen in life, but we can’t let them consume us and steal away the things of greatest value to us.

At one point in the story, June is magically, mystically pulled into a seemingly very real version of Wonderland, and she learns some metaphorical lessons about the sadness she’s been feeling over her mom’s absence. “I was so scared of losing her that I lost myself,” June realizes at one point. “Mom would hate seeing me like this.”

Along the way a number of real and imaginary characters learn about reaching out and making an effort even when they feel sad and defeated. And several of them put their own lives on the line for the sake of others. “She’s not giving up, and neither should we,” one Wonderland resident proclaims after seeing June push forward in a time of need.

The film also praises parents and encourages them to take the time to creatively invest in their kids. The delightful results of that investment shine through in a story that beautifully illustrates the value of family and parenthood.

Spiritual Content

A number of spiritual parallels can be drawn from June’s imaginary realm of Wonderland. For example, from a certain perspective you could see June and her mom as the “creators” of this magical place. They think it into being and whisper guidance to Peanut for the betterment of the park. And we see how their care, and lack of care, impact everything in this world.

In another instance, there’s a small piece of a Wonderland blueprint—something June and Mom drew together, but something that June tosses into the fireplace after her mother goes away—that magically leads June to a seemingly real version of Wonderland. That, too, can be seen as a subtle spiritual nudge of sorts that pushes June to understand that she should turn from darker things and toward the light, which is represented by hope, optimism and believing that circumstances can still get better.

In fact, when June magically stumbles into the park, she sees that her depression, her sadness and grief, have created a swirling cloud of darkness over the land. It’s a destructive force that now—with the help of some “zombified” stuffed monkeys—is consuming large sections of the park (and June’s joy) itself. In connection to that, a Wonderland character wonders if June is wrestling with an “existential crisis.” And another resident sees June’s helpful actions as the equivalent of a miracle.

Residents of Wonderland note that a remnant of the darkness that threatened them still remains after they’ve made their way to a happy ending. “Maybe it’s there to remind us to look at the light around us,” one of them opines.

Someone cries out, “Thank heavens!” Banky, a boy of Indian descent, exclaims, “Thank Krishna!” the latter a reference to a Hindu god.

Sexual Content

A couple characters have romantic crushes on someone else. Banky is obviously enamored with June, though she only sees him as a great pal. When she blows a kiss in his direction, he faints straight away. And one of the anthropomorphic animal residents of Wonderland cries out his affection for another saying, “I burn for you.” A Wonderland animal gives another animal resident a kiss on the cheek.

In a scene in which parents are saying goodbye to kids going to camp, a very brief pan of the camera may depict one child whose parents might both be men.

Violent Content

There’s a lot of peril in the action as giant robots smash the park attractions; hordes of stuffed zombie monkeys destroy stuff; and June and her animal friends get sent tumbling and falling from heights. But apart from a few moments of perilous suspense, there’s really nothing truly harmful or frightening in the mix here.

June also sets up a homemade roller coaster-like ride in her neighborhood that sends her (and Banky, her copiolot) careening down from the roof of her house. The wild ride destroys neighboring fences and backyard furniture, and it catapults her and Banky into oncoming traffic as well. After this escapade, Mom splits the difference between disciplining her daughter and affirming June’s irrepressibly creative spirit. To do the latter, Mom strongly stresses that creativity can never supersede the need for wise, safe and practical choices.

After Mom is hospitalized, June actually becomes overprotective and aware of every tiny potential danger in her world—especially when it comes to her dad. She imagines all the ways that Dad might set his world on fire, get hurt, and blow everything up if she isn’t there to guide and help him.

Crude or Profane Language

There’s no outright profanity here. But one character does use a phrase that’s certainly suggestive of something else when he blurts out, “What the chuck?” We also hear several uses of “oh my gosh,” as well as exclamatory phrases such as “oh, crikey,” and “holy teesy-tips!”

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Banky fakes getting sick and “vomits” (it’s Jell-O) to help June at one point, grossing out a bus-full of shocked kids. And though she’s determined to help her father when she thinks he’s in need, June nevertheless sneaks away from adult supervision.

Conclusion

These days, if an animated kids’ movie isn’t from Disney or Pixar, it can tend to slip-slide under our collective radar. Wonder Park seems destined to be one of those.

But it shouldn’t be.

This pic about an imaginative kid, her mom and the fantastically fanciful park they create together is, well, pretty wonder-ful. It’s gleefully sweet, full of swooping roller coaster-like escapades and it packs in some solid messages about loving one another, holding tight to hope, and finding joy even in the sometimes difficult bits of life.

And isn’t that what a good amusement park should do?

Only a few small bumps along the tracks detract at all from the story here, but certainly not enough to derail families from checking out this warmhearted story about a mother’s love, a daughter’s imagination, a father’s perseverance, and the transformative power of wonder.

We all want to see our families thrive. What makes your family special? What can you create together? Here are some ideas on how to build up your family’s own unique “wonderland.”

Creating a Safe Family Where Your Children Can Thrive (Part 1)

How Am I Smart? Discover, Strengthen and Use Children’s Intelligences

Help Your Child Find Strengths

No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of Brianna Denski as June; Jennifer Garner as Mom; Matthew Broderick as Dad; Mila Kunis as Greta; Norbert Leo Butz as Peanut; John Oliver as Steve; Ken Hudson Campbell as Boomer; Oev Michael Urbas as Banky

Director

Dylan Brown ( )

Distributor

Paramount Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

March 15, 2019

On Video

June 18, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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