In the early years of the 20th century, a long-running newspaper comic strip followed the adventures. Little Nemo in Slumberland: Each strip describes a dream that starts out grand but quickly grows strange, until our boy protagonist wakes up abruptly, realizing he shouldn’t have eaten so much before bed. Each episode was full page, playfully composed and stunningly colored, cartoonist Winsor McKay brimming with imagination and charm. It was a masterpiece. (And excellent reprints, though expensive, are not hard to find.)
By Francis Lawrence Slumberland It borrows its title and protagonist’s name from this list (though it’s a Nemo girl, and older than her name), as well as the idea of traveling through dreams that become dangerous. For one of the film’s posters, Netflix takes visual elements and typography from the comic, adding to early reports that the film is an adaptation. Why would they go to such trouble to attract viewers who hate (or, really, have any strong reaction to) this movie?
The bottom line
A superior variant not to be confused with the original material.
McKay and fans of classic comics take note: Slumberland It has nothing to do with what you love. Either avoid it altogether or go in with your eyes open. But, in any case, don’t sit in the living room groaning every few minutes, complaining to the kids on the sofa about how unimaginative this movie is compared to the comic.
Marlowe Barkley (TV Single parents) plays the dutiful daughter of a widowed lighthouse keeper (Kyle Chandler). When her father dies helping a stranded boat, she is sent to live with Philip, an uncle Chris O’Dowd has never met. It’s all boilerplate: Philip, a total square who owns a doorknob company (can you believe it!?), doesn’t know how to take care of a baby; He thinks getting her into a fancy school is 90% work. (O’Dowd works to destroy his charisma and his Irish accent for the role. He’s more successful than before.)
Later, during a bad night’s sleep in Philip’s sleek apartment, Nemo’s four-poster bed creaks on its long legs (a delightful joke, and one of the few clear links to the comic) and takes her into a strange new dream world.
She soon meets Flip (Jason Momoa), a large man with fangs, twitchy doe ears and ram’s horns. (Besides those distractions, his Trish Summerville-designed clothes grab our attention.) Nemo knows Flip from her father’s stories from her “outside” youth: they were best friends as kids, but somehow Flip got stuck in a coma. Living with his own bad-boy myth for several decades, he’s little more than that: Momo’s version of loose-cannon comedic spectacle owes a debt to Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice. But he tries to be a team player, enlisting the kid in a common quest: dangerous journeys, magical kisses, nightmares that haunt you when they sense your fears.
Fortunately, this familiar mission takes our heroes to some very disorienting places. A map of secret doors leading from one person’s dreams to the next sends us on a strange daisy chain: we can start in a Cuban ballroom where all the dancers are made of thousands of butterflies, then slip into a monster car chase. The truck is driven by a schoolboy whose duck-ass haircut is so big he could topple under its weight.
These lively sequences that play like that the beginning For elementary-schoolers, Lawrence and his craft teams create so many bright and colorful worlds, some sweetened with digital effects, that you could pray for a single unmanipulated vista as a palate cleanser. What you get instead is the dreary glimmer of Philip’s apartment, where we’re reminded of all the real-life stuff (grief, abandonment, conformity) that Nemo needs to digest in order for Nemo to grow.
Never mind that Winsor McKay’s comic is almost entirely anti-personal-growth Seinfeld Famous for: The strip only continues if Nemo ignores his mother’s advice about pre-bed snacks and has all the dreams that bring on indigestion. That was a century ago, when children were expected to do most of the work on their own. For all Lawrence’s surface wildness SlumberlandAs you can find it is a rule of thumb to follow the family picture.