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"Slumberland" 4K Review

 As the culture wars poison everything that used to be fun in the world, the disconnect between what critics and the unwashed masses enjoy or dislike seems to be growing farther apart as movies that critics applaud because they tickle their woke spots have vastly more negative ratings from viewers (who are dismissed as "toxic trolls review bombing out of bigotry"; the all-purpose excuse for bad movies these days) and vice versa as critics hate on movies for the crime of just being entertaining and the rabble enjoy being entertained.

Such as it goes with this weekend's Big Netflix Movie, Slumberland, starring Jason Momoa in a family-friendly adaptation of the classic comic Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, which I haven't read and whose critic fans really hate this movie for not being as good as. Looking now, post viewing, I see it's showing a 35% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics an 88% from fans. Since there's no political aspect to it, those excuses don't fly - it's just that critics are jaded miserable folks who want every movie to be kale? Pretty much. ("Aren't you a critic, Dirk?" you may ask? Shut up and read.) Since the missus loves her some Momo, I was roped into watching it, too.

 Slumberland opens with a prologue introducing us to Nemo (Marlow Barkley) who lives with her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler), in a lighthouse. He is a kind man who dotes on his daughter, telling her fantastical bedtime stories of his wild outlaw adventures in his younger single days with a partner named Flip, so you know he's not long for this world and movie and, yep, that emergency call he went out on the boat for during a storm kills him.

Since Nemo's mother died when she was a baby (because this always works for Disney), her sole relative is her uncle Philip (Chris O'Dowd), a wealthy doorknob salesman who has a nice large apartment that is sterile and cold-feeling. He was long-estranged from his brother (for reasons that are explained over time) and very awkward about this new responsibility - he has to Google "how to raise a child" - but he enrolls her in a posh prep school and genuinely tries to caretake her. 

Sad and lonely in this new life, Nemo falls asleep one night and is awakened when her stuffed pig, named Pig (because creativity is dead), comes to life as does her bed which smashes out her high window and walks her down the street (to the notice of no one) and then swims her to the lighthouse. (She seems weirdly chill about the whole situation, too.)

Upon arrival, she finds the lighthouse ransacked and discovers Flip (Momoa, playing it like a kiddie version of Beetlejuice), a wild satyr-like fellow with ram's horns and twitchy ears and feet, who is searching for a map of the world of dreams where he hopes to find magic pearls that can grant wishes. He demands she give it to him, but she has no idea what he's talking about. Luckily, the next night Pig unearths the map from a storage box from the lighthouse and she returns to Slumberland demanding to team up with Flip on the quest so she can get a pearl to bring back her father.

 So the odd couple proceed to trek through other people's fantastical CGI-enhanced dreams, seeking doors to the next dream that leads to their goal, all while being chased by "dream cop" (because calling them Dream Police would require paying Cheap Trick) Agent Green (Weruche Opia in a giant Pam Grier Afro wig) who wants to lock up Flip for general miscreant behavior.

 While a tad long at two hours even, Slumberland is an enjoyable fantasy lark filled with bright visuals, some occasionally above-average humor, and anchored by good performances from its three leads. Barkley avoids the annoying precocious brat trap; O'Dowd balances his deeply repressed psyche and eventual evolution (though I figured out his twist long before the movie got around to it); and Momoa is clearly having a blast as Flip with his dad bod gut and wacky antics.

Director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games sequels, I Am Legend, Constantine) brings visual panache and whimsy to proceedings and manages to balance the elements of grief, adventure, comedy, and sadness without getting too kiddie, too adult, too dark and scary, or too slight and silly. Glancing at other reviews, it appears other critics wanted it to be more like The Sandman than Candyland, because heaven forbid children get a break from having liberal doom, gloom, misery, and confusion pounded into them.

 While Slumberland is likely for many to be another one of Netflix's endless parade of streamed and forgotten movies like that one with The Rock and Deadpool and Wonder Woman doing something or the other one from the Avengers directors with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling trying to kill each other for some reason which cost over $400 million combined to produce, it's a fine enough escape from the sad realities of the world today to a place made for mindless fun. 

For the home theater enthusiast, it's a good showcase of Dolby Vision and Atmos audio which really make the colors pop and the milieu aurally surround you from all directions. Netflix sucks because they're the only service that limits 4K content to their most expensive ($20) plan when every other service includes it gratis, but at least you can see what you're paying for.

Score: 7/10. Watch it.


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