Slumberland

Where i Watched it: Netflix

English Audio Description Provided By: international Digial Center

Written By: Liz Gutman

Narrated By: Jeannie Lemcheck

I had no idea what this was. I knew hit had Jason momoa, and that was it. then, as the film started to unfold, I heard Nemo as the main girl’s name, and I figured this was some kind of Nemo in Slumberland adaptation. Also, it became clear that this fantasy film is meant for families, and is really pretty safe. There are a few nightmare suggestions in here, so maybe not like 5 and under, but I think the film is probably Ok for most elementary on up.

Nemo lives in a lighthouse with her father (Kyle chandler) who tells her stories, so she can sleep at night with her stuffed animal Pig. nemo hopes to run the lighthouse one day. Unfortunately, her dad gets on a boat and is lost at sea, and Nemo is reluctantly adopted by her uncle (Chris O’Dowd), a doorknob salesman. However, nemo remembers the stories she dreamt about, and believes she can contact her father in her dreams. So, she spends a lot of time trying to sleep, and in her dreams she meets a mysterious man (momoa), who claims to know her dad.

Marlowe Barkley plays Nemo, and she does a great job as a newcomer carrying this film. She has to deal with all sorts of nonsense, and she comes out on top. She’s also in Spirited, so she’s getting work. Definitely a talent to watch.

Where the film lacks is in the nonchalant way nemo goes about achieving this constant sleep. She sleeps in a room at school, which would be fine, if they took time to establish anything. There’s some poor kid growing mushrooms down there, but he’s not her friend, and she’s dismissive of him. Having someone run interference for her, keeping people away from where she sleeps makes far more sense, than convincing your teacher you’re on vacation for two weeks, while your uncle thinks you’re at school. Nemo eventually would run into someone.

Also, I love how her uncle treats her like she’s Nell, and has never had human contact. When he passes her off to her teacher, he mentions she was raised like a hermit, even though nothing so far suggests she’s weird in anyway socially or otherwise. If anything, the doorknob collector is the strange one.

But the movie, which is directed by Francis Lawrence of The hunger Games franchise, fails in its casting of momoa. It’s not that Momoa is on my shit list, but the rules of casting action stars in comedies, is to make it feel effortless. Look at Dwayne Johnson in the Jumanji films, or central intelligence. Those films know what about him is funny, and they play it up. Schwarzenegger had the same thing with Twins, which is why that was such comedy gold, and even kindergarten Cop, where he played himself, in charge of people you would not normally put him in charge of. Jackie Chan knows how to use his specific set of skills for comedy. Even someone like Dave Bautista or John cena have an understanding of what about them is funny. Blockers was funny because john Cena wasn’t playing something he’s not, or trying too hard.

momoa seems to think that this film requires him to actually play the jokes out, instead of just let them come to him. i don’t know if that’s his interpretation, or if he got bad direction, but this should feel a lot more like momoa in Aquaman or game of Thrones, and it feels like a drunk guy pretending to be Jason momoa to impress a bridesmaid at his college roommates wedding. momoa is having to try far too hard here, and it’s obvious, and nothing he does comes across as natural or easy.

I think Momoa has been perfectly cast before, and even his hosting stint on Saturday night Live knew exactly what to do with him. Here, he’s just lost.

The audio description written by Liz gutman is what you would expect from Gutman, who has to deal with things that are real blending almost seamlessly into things that aren’t. Nemo’s doll Pig, for example, wakes up and has a personality of its own in Slumberland, giving her another character to track. in the real world segments, it’s just a doll, but it’s given greater significance because it’s also a character. It’s just little things, like noting where Pig is even in the waking world that make this audio description feel very fleshed out.

Slumberland isn’t perfect, but with a charming young lead actress, and a heartfelt story about doing literally anything to see someone just one more time, it makes up for a lot of the shortcomings the script and other elements have. At the core of this film, when you strip everything away, this is a film about loss, and a little girl who never got to say goodbye. And that simple little plot piece works very well.

Final Grade: B-

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