My daughter had another day off because her school is a polling place in our local elections. I swear these kids don’t go one week without day off or an early release. When we were kids, we only got off school if there was an alien invasion. Anyway, to make the day special, we took advantage of Marcus Theater’s $5 Tuesdays and saw Wonder Park. I loved it for several reasons! So much so that I came home and dumped popcorn on the floor so I could take pictures for this post I knew I wanted to write.
4 Reasons I Loved the Movie Wonder Park
1. The Main Character is a Girl Who Loves to Invent
When God formed me in my mother’s womb, he must have spent less time on the math part of my brain. No offense, God, but I just do not have it. I am more of a creative – give me words, colors, not letters or weird symbols in a math problem.
I don’t want my disdain for math to rub off on my daughter though. She gets easily frustrated, but she’s GOOD at math, like really good. I want her to explore math, science, technology, engineering, and all of those predominantly male-dominated fields. She’s a strong-willed girl and I know she could do anything she sets her mind to.
June, the main character in Wonder Park, is a spunky girl who loves to create an imaginary amusement park called Wonderland. Her mom encourages her imagination and together they create something magical!
2. While Her Imagination Is Encouraged, She Doesn’t Have Free Reign
I love a parent who encourages their child to be imaginative, experiment, and entertain themselves. This is actually something I’m working on with my own kids! BUT, I think it’s also important to set boundaries.
June decides to create a life-size amusement park that trashes the neighborhood and endangers her and her friend Banky. Her mom tells her that she wants her to keep imagining, but also use common sense; such an important lesson for kids to learn. In an age where we don’t just let kids roam in the neighborhood like we got to do in the 90s, it’s important to instill common sense.
3. It Passes the Bechdel Test
The Bechdel Test is a measure of the representation of women in fiction*. To pass the Bechdel test, a movie must meet these 3 criteria:
- It has to have at least 2 women in the movie.
- These named female characters have to speak to each other.
- They have to talk about something other than a man.
You’d be surprised at how many movies fail this test! In Wonder Park, you’ll see named female characters speaking to each other quite a bit about things other than a male character. June and her mom talk about Wonder Park, sickness, and imagination. June and Greta talk about how to fix Wonderland.
4. Representation of Sadness and Grief
Without giving too much away, June and her mom build this amusement park called Wonderland. When June’s mom gets sick and has to go away for treatment, June tears is all down and wants to forget about it.
She ends up in a real-world version of Wonderland and finds that it has been destroyed by “the darkness.” The darkness represents the feelings of sadness, confusion, and grief she feels over her mom’s illness.
To save Wonderland, she has to go INTO the darkness. She can’t wait for it to pass. She can’t ignore it. She has to face it. What a powerful message! So often we want to shelter our kids from pain and uncomfortable situations, and there’s definitely room for that, but there’s also room for sitting in the muck and mire and experiencing feelings fully. (I love how the book Here In the Garden addresses this topic.)
One of my favorite quotes from the movie which made me tear up is, “Maybe the darkness will never fully go away. Maybe it’s there to remind us to look at the light that surrounds us.” ::SOBS::
Now for the Critiques…
The movie did some things right and some things not so right. I only paid $10 for both of us to see it and we got free popcorn. I liked it for that amount of money. Had I taken my whole family and spent close to $100, I would have been kind of upset. Here are some of the things I didn’t love:
- I liked that June’s friend was non-white (Indian), but it seemed like they wedged him pretty firmly into a stereotypical “smart Indian kid” role. He isn’t even listed very high on the call sheet either.
- The plot was definitely not airtight. In many places it was like, uhhh what’s happening now? How did we get here? It’s definitely not at a Toy Story level of storytelling by any means.
- Why is the park called Wonderland and the movie called Wonder Park?! This is a small detail, but what the heck?
- Her mom got sick and had to “go away” to a treatment facility somewhere. They never went to visit her? Why did she have to go so far away? Was it cancer? I liked that they tried to include a difficult concept like this, but it wasn’t fully formed.
- Did the camp counselor even notice she jumped off the bus and went missing? (I guess it’s possible. One time on a church trip, they left my brother in Michigan and didn’t notice he was gone until they got to Indiana!)
My kiddo liked it, but it wasn’t her favorite movie. Some of the elements of the movie are frightening (chimpanzombies) so be careful of that if you’re thinking of taking smaller kiddos.
* Bechdel Test definition from Wikipedia.
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