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SLUMBERLAND (2022)  l  Netflix  |  November 18, 2022

Starring:  Jason Momoa, Marlow Barkley, Chris O'Dowd, Kyle Chandler, Weruche Opia

Director: Francis Lawrence

A young girl discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland, and with the help of an eccentric outlaw, she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again.

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REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

Slumberland may entertain younger audiences with its fantasy filled adventure, but adult viewers will be left with little to enjoy as the film’s emotional core is buried under an over reliance on CGI and a miscast Jason Momoa. 

 

I am normally a sucker for films revolving around a young child who is dealing with a loss of a loved one and building a friendship to help them through the challenging time, having seen so many beautiful and memorable films in this subgenre like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and A Monster Calls. Slumberland is rich with potential as it tells the story of Nemo, a young girl who has just lost her father, who discovers that she is able to navigate dreams and nightmares with the help of an eccentric outlaw named Flip. Together, they embark on an adventure across dreamscapes as Nemo tries to reunite with her father. There is no doubt that the film is too long with a run time of two hours, causing the film to take too long to find its footing and bring to life the adventure, ultimately delaying the heart of the story from showing itself until it is too late. 

 

Director Francis Lawrence is no stranger to epic films full of emotion, having directed the final three Hunger Games films, but he is off his game here. His film has an overabundance of CGI to create the dreams that Nemo and Flip travel through. It is understandable why CGI is used to create some of the more fantastical elements of the film, but the majority of the dream sequences are one hundred percent CGI which takes the viewer out of the film, where some elements could have been created using practical effects and set design. Nevermind the fact that the CGI is some of the worst CGI in any film this year, questioning how approximately one hundred and fifty million dollars were spent on making this film. The CGI looks like an incredibly low budget episode of television, not a film with the budget of a Marvel or Star Wars project. 

 

While the emotional core of the story is something that can speak to audiences of all ages, the majority of the film's laughs and situations are very childish, failing to create something that the entire family will easily enjoy. The casting of Jason Momoa may be enough to catch the attention of adults and make them willing to try this film with their children, though Momoa is unfortunately not the right pick for the role. The role of Flip requires a mixture of humour, intrigue and heart, and while Momoa has all of those elements, he does not balance them properly for the role. His humour comes off as too silly, while failing to capture the danger and intrigue of Flip. At the same time, he lets these elements overshadow the heart of his character and his protection for young Nemo as she searches for her father. Momoa does not give a bad performance, but his inability to find the nuanced balance of these different personality traits of Flip prevents his performance from being a shining element of the film that would help elevate the film over its pitfalls. 

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Young Marlow Barkely shows great potential as Nemo, capturing the determination of her character as she pushes to reunite with her father. While the film itself is not great, there is no denying that Barkley shows promise in this film that had she been given a better film, could have made for a breakout role for her. Chris O’Dowd is fine as Nemo’s uncle who takes her in after the death of her father. He is hindered by the script preventing his character from truly developing in the first half of the film, but once he is given an arc in the film’s second half, O’Dowd proves to be a good choice for the role. 

 

But it is Kyle Chandler who is the best casting choice of the film. As Nemo’s father Peter, Chandler quickly and effortlessly creates a beautiful bond with Barkley to bring to life the central relationship that drives the entire film’s story. And he does so in under five minutes, and then comes back at the end of the film to help deliver the emotional suckerpunch that the film sets up. While the film is not able to reach the emotional highs it strives for, there is no denying that Chandler is the best part of the entire film. 

 

As much as I wanted to enjoy Slumberland and tried to get into the film, Slumberland was a frustrating film at every turn. While the miscasting of Jason Momoa was hard to grapple with, it is the low quality and overabundance of CGI that sucked the life out of Slumberland, sinking the emotional core of the story below numerous problems and wasting the talents of Marlow Barkley and Kyle Chandler.

RATING: 2 out of 5