– Coming to Netflix on Friday, November 18
– Directed by Francis Lawrence
– Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman
– Based on the short story Little Nemo by Winsor McCay
– Stars Jason Momoa and Marlow Barkley
– Fantasy-based adventure movie for the whole family
Netflix original movies are typically about as cinematic as an episode of Fixing Up with Marie Kondo. However, with a budget of $150 million to play with, Francis Lawrence, the director who helmed the biggest YA franchise of the last decade in The Hunger Games (well, three-quarters of it) helms a fantastic and conceptually intriguing film adaptation of Slumberland, a spectacle visually stunning loosely based on an early 20th century comic book by Winsor McCay.
Serving as a teen-friendly answer Start, Slumberland is one of those rare offerings worthy of gracing the big screen. In fact, Lawrence makes sure every penny is on display, even if this new Netflix movie is a lot – and we mean much – loosely associated with McCay’s original work. Aside from the names of the main characters (although even the young hero changes genders) and the general theme of traveling into others’ dreams, this escapade bears little resemblance to the original’s flights of fantasy.
Slumberland stars relative newcomer Marlow Barkley as Nemo, a bright young woman whose idyllic life on an isolated island lighthouse is shattered when her widowed father Peter (Kyle Chandler) disappears at sea. While dealing with the trauma of being orphaned at just 11, she is sent to a high-rise apartment in Toronto with her estranged uncle (somewhat bizarrely, Chris O’Dowd adopting a rebellious American accent).
And the culture shock could not be greater. While her adventurous father regaled her with wonderful bedtime stories that allowed her imagination to run wild (see the shadows that suddenly move of their own accord), her brother is a doorknob salesman with no idea how to connect with kids. “I was the first student interested in door hardware,” he boasts proudly as he shows his collection to his understandably uninterested niece.
However, Marley is soon given the chance to escape her dreary new existence during a night’s sleep, when her squeaky four-poster bed comes to life and transports her to a strange dream world. It’s here that she meets the only other survivor of McCay’s graphic novels, albeit again wholly unrecognizable to those who grew up reading them.
Rather than a cigar-chomping clown, Flip (Jason Momoa) is an elaborately dressed satyr (essentially a half-man, half-goat being) whose appearance and mannerisms span the gamut of movie mischief-makers from beetle juice and Mr. Tumnus to, obviously, Jack Sparrow. owes a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean If it ever materializes – however unlikely it may be given Margot Robbie’s recent comments on the matter – then producers need look no further for Johnny Depp’s replacement.
Momoa seems to be having a lot of fun as the self-described “unsettling mix of father figure and repressed masculinity” who teams up with Nemo to find a mythical wish-granting pearl. With his rippling muscles obscured by a prosthetic belly and pink velvet coat, the DC movie star (who will reprise his role as Aquaman in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in 2023) has to rely a lot more on his natural charisma, comedic timing. and willingness to play the fool. At one point, he even breaks into a sassy, Beyoncé-esque dance routine.
It’s also Momoa who has to deliver the rather confusing exposition dump that even Christopher Nolan obsessives might find a little confusing. What is clear, though, is that Marley can die in his own dreams without any real-life consequences. But if she succumbs to the various dangerous traps in other people’s fantasy lands, the game will end in the physical world as well.
This gives Slumberland a much greater sense of danger than the only other live-action version of McCay’s work, the baffling 1984 Dream One (a slightly more precarious anime, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, arrived five years later). . Such perils include the odd couple having to leap from a mountain top onto a giant flying goose – a dream the film claims is Canada’s most common – fleeing a lethal smoke monster and evading a persistent ‘dream policeman’ (Weruche Opia) who spent years trying to capture Momoa’s silly spinning.
Lawrence has fun building the less dangerous aspects of his brightly colored other world. Opia’s Agent Green works for the BOSA (Bureau of Subconscious Activity), an organization that operates out of a labyrinthine headquarters where dreams are put into categories like Oedipal and – perhaps scariest of all – sitting down for an exam you not reviewed. Flip and Nemo also traverse many of its more playful levels, from the art deco bathroom – whose cisterns they emerge from – to a lush Cuban ballroom whose guests consist entirely of fluttering butterflies.
Of course, as with all children’s pranks, they also need to learn some valuable life lessons along the way. And this is where the film starts to fail. Slumberland exceeds expectations on an aesthetic front, but its exploration of death, grief, and loneliness is so shallow that the intended emotional punches feel more like a light jab. Even a third-act reveal about Flip’s real-world identity fails. A Spielberg-style meditation on the loss of parents, this is not it.
And while younger viewers may initially be enthralled by the parade of candy-filled vending machines and chase scenes involving monster trucks driven by children, the narrative ties itself into so many knots that they may find themselves adrift before two o’clock. of duration. comes to an end.
Still, Slumberland is arguably an improvement on Netflix’s other recent PG-13 fantasies (see The School of Good and Evil, The Curse of Bridge Hollow). Barkley’s committed performances, which will be seen in the umpteenth adaptation of A Christmas Carol Spirited on Apple TV Plus, and a never-better Momoa mean we’d be happy to see them return for a sequel – even if we don’t expect this one to be part of the series. our list of the best movies on Netflix.
Slumberland arrives on Netflix on Friday, November 18th.