SLUMBERLAND (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Slumberland, the world of dreams! Jason Momoa plays “Flip” an eccentric outlaw on a mission to help a young girl (Marlow Barkley) travel through dreams and flee nightmares, in hopes of reuniting with her father.
In an alternate universe, Slumberland might be yet another Disney’s big budget CGI spectacle starring Johnny Depp as Flip, a devil horned outlaw who lives in the fantasy dreamland and teams up with a little girl, Nemo (rising actor Marlow Barkley who looks like a young Saoirse Ronan) to find a magic pearl. However, given that Depp is no longer the hottest commodity in town, Flip is played by Jason Momoa who gives his best impersonation of Depp’s Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka and Jack Sparrow.
Nemo lives with his father, Peter (Kyle Chandler) in a lighthouse until one day, Peter is lost at sea and Nemo is placed under the custody of his dad’s estranged brother, Philip (Chris O’Dowd) who lives in a fancy apartment in the city. Determined to reunite with her father, Nemo is transported to Slumberland where she meets Peter’s friend, Flip and they have to dream-hop through others subconsciousness, escaped the Bureau’s Agent Green and evil nightmare in order to reconnect with her dad.
In all honesty, the core of Slumberland is somewhat far more interesting than what it is portrayed on screen. The movie involves serious themes liked dealing with grief, the complexity of dreams and parenting tweens just to name a few. You got to give credit to the screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handelman for attempting to pull off a far more emotional and intelligent children fantasy flick. Although, notice we used the word “attempting”.
End of day, Slumberland fails to escape the curse of modern day Hollywood blockbusters. The constant reliance on CGI-heavy chase scenes and overdone green-screen doesn’t help in the storytelling department and this is especially so right here. From a ballroom filled with butterflies to a boy driving a gigantic truck to a man on a Canadian goose, the effects-laden sequences are exhausting and lacks an ounce of imagination despite its intended purpose.
The fantasy adventure works better during its quieter moments - most prominently, Philip's interaction with Nemo. Boring Uncle Philip who prefers to work with his locks is in fact a much more emotional, captivating character than Flip. Maybe it’s Momoa’s fault for not breathing more into the over-the-top character but we digress. Again, two hours of constantly facing a virtual reality world can actually put you into “Slumberland” if you get what we mean.
Netflix’s latest big budget CGI spectacle turns out to be a middling effort despite having Francis Lawrence at the helm. Lawrence no stranger to visually rich blockbusters (I Am Legend, Constantine and The Hunger Games) pays too much attention on the technological details that he forgot a magical adventure needs a captivating plot in the first place.
Review by Linus Tee