TL;DR – A film that might have some of the most out-there performances I have seen but was missing a bit of substance in places.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this film
Slumberland Review –
Grief is always a complex emotion for a film to land. Sure, you can phone it to get some emotional engagement from your audience, but if you want to tap into something more profound, that is a lot of work. Add to this the nuance needed when building a film directed towards a younger demographic, and you get the film we are looking at today.
So to set the scene, we open on a lighthouse on an island where Nemo (Marlow Barkley) lives with her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler). Nemo knows everything about the lighthouse, and every night Peter tells her stories of Flip (Jason Momoa) and the adventures they had when he was a kid. But when Peter is lost at sea during a rescue, Nemo must leave the lighthouse and live with her uncle, whom she never met and who lives in the city. No one is happy with this move. However, when Nemo goes to sleep, she is surprised when her soft toy pig comes alive, and even more so when her bed wakes up and smashes out of her window, taking her back to the lighthouse, but not quite as she remembers it, and someone from her father’s past is waiting for her.
On the face of it, the critical part of recommending this film is seeing Jason Momoa swing from every fence and chew every piece of scenery. There is no scene in the movie where he is not hitting the wall at 100 miles an hour, giving a level of energy that I have rarely experienced in a film and not for the entire run time. It would have been too much had it not been balanced by the rest of the cast. Marlow Barkley is the heart of the film, and I have to give them a lot of respect because it would have been difficult for a seasoned actor to counter that much energy, but she does it with a stride. Much like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it is always odd to hear Chris O’Dowd do an American accent. He has such a dour performance that you wonder why they cast him right up until you see exactly why they cast him.
The movie’s overall theme is a child coming to terms with the grief of losing her father. It works in that magical realism space where you can’t be sure if what they are experiencing is real or just a dream. Or then, does it actually matter if it is just a dream? I have not read the original comic, so I can’t tell you how it works as an adaptation. But the story we got had just enough momentum to keep it pointed in the right direction. However, this might have been one of those rare occasions where this could have worked better as a short series than a feature film. For example, I would have liked to know more about the Loki-esk Bureau of Subconscious Activities, but that was only a tiny thing.
One area where you see the film and its best and worst is in the visual effects. As most of the story is set in dreamland, this becomes a very visual effects-heavy film. Some of these work fantastically well, like the city made of glass, giant Canada Geese, and dancing flower people that gave me big Annihilation vibes. But then there are other moments where the characters stand out like a sore thumb from everything surrounding them. You can feel the green screen or volume, almost like it is another unwelcome character. Some of this is saved because it is a film on a smaller screen, but it is a bit disappointing when other parts of the film are so strong.
In the end, do we recommend Slumberland? Well? On the one hand, it would be fun to watch for Jason Momoa’s performance alone. However, I am not sure it was pitched to its targeted audience, and some aspects felt frustrating. Though give me the joy of the Canadian on his goose any day of the week. If you liked Slumberland, we would also recommend to you Luca.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Slumberland
Directed by – Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by – David Guion & Michael Handelman
Based on – Little Nemo by Winsor McCay
Music by – Pinar Toprak
Cinematography by – Jo Willems
Edited by – Mark Yoshikawa
Production/Distribution Companies – Chernin Entertainment & Netflix
Starring –Marlow Barkley, Jason Momoa, Chris O’Dowd, Kyle Chandler, Weruche Opia, India de Beaufort, Chris D’Silva, Yanna McIntosh, Izaak Smith, Michael Blake, Humberly González, Leslie Adlam, Jamillah Ross, Tonya Cornelisse & Katerina Taxia
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG