I’ll let you in on a little trade secret: movie critics really want to like what they see. The odds may not always be in our favor, and some jobs inspire less anticipation than others, but no one comes to work expecting a miserable day, especially when they have lucky enough to have a job that sometimes offers a fit. simple money.
Suffice it to say that one of these days I’d be absolutely thrilled to get excited about any of the brilliant, star-studded, and/or special-effects original movies Netflix releases on its platform without any marketing festivities. or gaming. Anyway, as part of the streamer’s deal with the dark lord Satan to flood the region with movie-flavored content (last summer’s “Hustle” turned out to be the rule strong enough to feel like an exception). And while Francis Lawrence’s “Slumberland” stands head and shoulders above “The Gray Man,” “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” and “The School for Good and Evil,” I’m afraid today today is not the day.
Originally inspired by Winsor McCoy’s 1920s cartoon “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” it sounds so clearly like a cross between “Alice in Wonderland” and “Inception” that you can almost hear Lawrence putting it on Netflix. with those exact words. . : “Sleeping Earth”. is a storybook based on cinematic dreams that are just as confusing and forgettable as real dreams and hundreds of times more so.
That makes a pretty dramatic change for a guy whose previous film was A) an R-rated spy thriller and B) good. Unfortunately, that’s how studio heads operate in the age of streaming, especially those whose work (“Constantine,” “Water for Elephants,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) reflects an admirable preference for making new mistakes. . Made in a time when most of Hollywood is happy to repeat the oldies.
Change McCoy’s young comic book protagonist into an 11-year-old girl of the same name (the brave and friendly Marlowe Barclay) and replace the non-linear nature of the Adventures of Nemo with a now-standard young adult narrative about a boy learning to Coping with the loss of a parent, “Slumberland” his best starts with his foot forward. Everything about Nemo’s life feels like something out of a fairy tale: he and his single dad, a lighthouse operator (a bearded, dreamy Kyle Chandler), live on a scenic one-room island somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. , such a desolate, kitschy place and colorful candy store that basically represents what Moonrise Kingdom might look like if tamed by Willy Wonka.
“What is a lighthouse for? Whirlpool asks Nemo’s father at the end of the cut, which provides an emotional underpinning for the rambling scene. It’s a question that demands a poetically moving answer, but Nemo’s father is drowned in a blue storm of blurry CGI before his daughter can figure it out for herself.
Next thing Nemo knows, newly orphaned, he lives on the Continent with his fiery yuppie uncle Philip (Chris O’Dowd), the opposite of his late brother. Instead of an outdoorsman who lives off the beaten path and inspires his daughter to follow her imagination, Philip is a chalk-dry doorknob salesman who lives in a Toronto high-rise and hates going out. . Not a bad boy at all, just joyless; O’Dowd is always a welcome disappointment, and his dark, deadpan expression provides all of this film’s funniest moments (for example, the part that introduces him when he answers a work call at his brother’s funeral and tells casually the person from the other end. The phrase that “my brother lost at sea”. He also owns a series of hardcover books called “Extraordinary Knobs”, which turns out to be an easy loop).
Luckily for Nemo, he still sees his father in his dreams. There’s only one problem: it’s not between them. Instead, the unconscious girl is picked up by a giant, smelly henchman named Flip (a very Jason Momoa performance), who turns out to be the illicit love interest between Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Tumnus of The Chronicles of N’Arnier with a couple. pointy fawn ears and a purple top hat that houses his two giant antlers (did I mention he has two giant antlers too?).
Flip, who amusingly describes himself as “a creepy mix of father figure and repressed masculinity”, becomes obsessed with escaping the Bureau’s Dream Cops and collecting magical pearls from the Sea of Nightmares that will allow him to grant his greatest wish. Ah… did Johnny Depp win the stunt contest? Back to paying him so little to work with screenwriters David Guyon and Michael Handelman? Since the night you fell into the depths of Slumberland to survive the Best Buy TV demo, have you forgotten who you are in the waking world? The details are frustratingly confusing, though the character lives up to that film’s “Inception” lineage by constantly explaining the intricate rules of her colorful dream world.
Courtesy of Netflix
Slumberland’s basics are pretty easy to figure out: Flip has a key that allows him and Nemo to walk through other people’s dreams, i.e. every cornucopia of unconscious CGI utterances in the film. A random character who finds our heroes in a doorway. And another. Next. Dream police officer Greene (Weruche Opiah) chases them through a hotel ballroom where the butterflies are taking a salsa lesson, because it turns out that’s what happens in the sleeping mind. of a ballerina. A kind of fight scene takes place in a mirrored bathroom that looks like an unused set from a recent “John Wick” movie, while a chase scene shows Flip and Nemo driving a big car with a little boy. wearing a rockabilly pom pom. – Through an empty city of colored blocks, as a 10-year-old child might dream of.
It might sound funny, but the action is so removed from any real emotional stock that even the most exciting sets and clever visuals, including a room tucked into an elevator, look like empty excitement. Likewise, Slumberland’s dreamscapes look sharper and less flashy than most CGI-laden children’s films made with the remnants of paint from Tim Burton’s Hollywood hellish palette, but the images are too uniform and don’t allow any possibility of plasticity. The dream of an individual, not to mention the Jungian web that weaves our collective unconscious. Lawrence’s film reflects the exuberance of McCoy’s drawings, but not their hand-drawn brilliance.
In fact, viewers may forget that any of these green-screen environments are meant to mirror the neural fireworks inside a person’s head, as opposed to time-folds or the multiverse. For all the constant metaphorical nonsense about dreams and nightmares, only a few moments effectively exploit the unique qualities of this film’s premise; The short sequence where we see who the various Dream Hosts really are in real life is so mesmerizing that it makes everything around them feel like a missed opportunity.
And “Slumberland” is nothing more than a boring roller coaster ride of missed opportunities, almost all of which stem from the film’s lack of a solid emotional foundation. There are some touching twists in the story: the lighthouse question has a good answer for something that hangs in the air for two full hours, but the waking and dream worlds are too disconnected from one another. the other to work with tape. The other. Another, and not even O’Dowd’s work on Zamindar, can bridge the gap to bring them together.
A lighthouse turns out to be a nice metaphor for fatherhood, but something else about “Slumberland” seems absurd. It’s another night to dream that Netflix will do better next time.
“Slumberland” hits select theaters on Friday, November 11. It will be available to stream on Netflix starting Friday, November 18.