‘Dreamland’ review, by Jason Momoa on Netflix
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“Don’t judge, at least it’s original,” says Jason Momoa’s Flip during ‘Slumberland’, translated in Spain as ‘The country of dreams’. It’s a phrase we can almost imagine acting as a preemptive defense for this new Netflix fantasy movie because, on the surface at least, it feels original compared to something like “School for Good and Evil.”
It may be based on Winsor McCay’s ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ comic strip, but it’s more of an original story inspired by it than a direct adaptation. Here, Nemo (Marlow Barkley) has been gender swapped, and instead of separate adventures, there’s a feature-length quest.
Nemo is not alone in his adventures, as he is joined by the eccentric and self-described outlaw Flip (Momoa). He guides him through the fantastical world of Slumberland as they travel through people’s dreams, searching for the one thing that could reunite Nemo with his late father Peter (Kyle Chandler).
The setting promises an entertaining family twist on ‘Inception’, but ends up being only slightly less complicated than Christopher Nolan’s hit. Because the problem with ‘Dreamland’ is that he ends up spending so much time explaining his world that he forgets to have fun in it.
We get scenes in several dreams that have some visual flourishes, like dancers made of butterflies, but each setting is drowned in sub-par digital effects. The film revisits the same dreams, and while there’s a story reason for it, it’s disappointing: being set in an endless world of dreams should be more imaginative.
We are told, in one of several explanatory moments, that if Nemo dies in someone else’s dream, she dies for real. A resource to give some sense of danger in the plot. Yet she never really feels in danger in the obviously fake setting, haunted by a ‘Lost’-esque shadow monster, so ‘Dreamland’ never gets exciting.
It doesn’t help that, despite all its efforts to create its own world logic, the film sometimes breaks its own rules. You could just not think about it too much and enjoy the ride, but the ride is so mediocre that your mind will be drawn to the inconsistencies.
However, the flaws of “Dreamland” are not the fault of the cast. Jason Momoa bravely launches into Flip’s swagger, as well as building a believable connection with Nemo as they go from reluctant allies to genuine friends, while newcomer Marlow Barkley holds his own against her co-star.
Despite all the disappointment in the world and the settings, the film has a strong emotional core. It might be almost cheating to cast Kyle Chandler as another serious dad (see ‘Super 8’, for example), but the scenes of him with Barkley affect it all the same and tie together the themes of the film nicely.
‘Dreamland’ might be more aimed at younger audiences, but anyone who has lost a parent will shed a tear. Featuring Chris O’Dowd’s well-intentioned but boring Uncle Phillip (a doorknob salesman who creates juvenile but funny jokes), the film even has something to say about being a foster parent.
But as much as the emotional core works, “Dreamland” disappoints in the fact that, as a fantasy, there is nothing fantastic about it. It’s an entertaining enough watch due to the efforts of the cast, assuming you stay awake during the action.
‘Dreamland’ is now available on Netflix.
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