November 17th, 2022
STARRING: MARLOW BARKLEY, JASON MOMOA, CHRIS O’DOWD, KYLE CHANDLER
DIRECTED BY: FRANCIS LAWRENCE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 STAR (Out of 4)
The title of the movie is Slumberland. Out the gate the thoughts should be of dream-like states of wonder, whisking us away to a magical world, or something beyond our imagination. There is some of that in Francis Lawrence’s new adventure, which arrived on Netflix with little promotion or fare, and intended to capture the attention of kids of all ages. Unfortunately, all that imagination arrives at the service of green screens, lazy writing, and poorly constructed special effects. It’s all sad when the ideas of childlike wonder are subpar and lack the creativity that children should expect. Slumberland will put you right to sleep.
The main character is Nemo (Marlow Barkley), an eleven-year-old living in a lighthouse with her father (Kyle Chandler) along the Pacific-Northwest. Her dad tells her bedtime stories of a magical place called Slumberland, with places of magical cars, mountains of snow, and an outlaw named Flip (Jason Momoa). When dad mysteriously becomes lost at sea, Nemo is left to move to England with her awkward uncle Philip (Chris O’Dowd), but it is here when Flip comes back, whisking Nemo away to a place where she only thought were stories. This turns her new life upside down and reveals that Slumberland was more than just a dream.
One major part about Slumberland is that it’s an awkward vehicle for Jason Momoa. The Aquaman star seems to be seeking for his new avenue and instantly Slumberland is not it. His character is an odd combination of a wolf-man mixed with a goat and as he wears prosthetic fanged teeth his dialogue is read with a mouth full of marbles. His relationship with Nemo is an attempt to be a child and his new larger than life friend but nothing about it is charming. On top of the issues of ugly makeup, there are also not enough individual moments to even make his outlaw character impressive. He’s not big and cuddly like Chewbacca and he’s not cool enough to be like Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan in Willow. The focus lies on Barkley’s Nemo and her character is too afraid to be the hero we follow.
On top of the characters and out of place actors, the direction from Lawrence is flat and joyless. The screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handelman is a combination of the board game Candyland and Never Ending Story. Each stage and location in Slumberland looks cheaper than the next. A dance hall covered with exotic flowers, a cityscape with kids driving monster trucks, and an underwater world that is reminiscent of Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace. It seems like Lawrence is tapping into his experiences with big universes in The Hunger Games movies, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, or has an appreciation for The Wizard of Oz. None of those things come together as Slumberland constantly looks cheap.
Above it all, Slumberland is incredibly predictable, with characters in the real world certainly representing her characters in the magical realm. The young lead is a sweet kid, that could be utilized being in a universe with practical effects, and an even deeper imagination. Slumberland makes an ugly, messy, CGI bed and unfortunately we are the ones who have to sleep in it.
SLUMBERLAND IS CURRENTLY PLAYING ON NETFLIX.
Written by: Leo Brady