The notion of a larger-than-life theme-park world as a projection of what June is going through comes directly out of “Inside Out,” but the comparison does Wonder Park no favors, because the earlier film was a masterpiece of bursting ingenuity, leaving this one to play like the scaled-down toddler version. On that score, it must be said that little kids will like Wonder Park just fine. But there’s a difference between a great escape and a winsomely crafted pacifier.
Boden and Fleck are low-key American neorealists, and in Captain Marvel they barely retain a vestige of their signature style. Yet they have brought off something exciting, embracing the Marvel house style and, within that, crafting a tale with enough tricks and moods and sleight-of-hand layers to keep us honestly absorbed.
It’s good to see Shyamalan back (to a degree) in form, to the extent that he’s recovered his basic mojo as a yarn spinner. But Glass occupies us without haunting us; it’s more busy than it is stirring or exciting.
The first part of the film gets some airy momentum going. Then, however, we learn the secret of what the characters have in common, and it gives you that slightly sinking feeling of one contrivance too many.
Even though Second Act shouldn’t work, it does (sort of). It’s got flow, a certain knowing ticky-tackiness about its own contrivances. You know you’re watching a connect-the-dots comedy, but the dots sparkle. And Lopez gives her first star performance in a while. Age has enriched her talent; she brings curlicues of experience to every scene.
The film is far from incompetent, and it brims with ambition, but too much of the time what’s happening just sits there. It’s a lavishly odd concoction, like a feel-good movie for OCD miniature-world Barbie-doll fetishists.