Slumberland (2022)

Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: David Guion, Michael Handelman
Based on: Winsor McCay‘s comic strip Little Nemo
Cast: Marlow Barkley, Jason Momoa, Chris O’Dowd, Kyle Chandler, Weruche Opia
Seen on: 9.12.2022

Nemo (Marlow Barkley) grows up with her father Peter (Kyle Chandler) in a solitary lighthouse. She loves their life together that is enriched by the many stories her father tells her – adventures he had with Flip before Nemo was born. But then one night, Peter has to answer a distress call and doesn’t return. Nemo’s life is torn apart and she is brought to her uncle Philip (Chris O’Dowd) to live in the city. Philip is the complete opposite of Peter, probably the least adventurous person ever. He doesn’t even dream. But Nemo does, and in her dream, she travels back to the lighthouse with her stuffed pig. And who should be there but the horned, rule-shirking Flip (Jason Momoa), looking for a map of Slumberland that Peter must have had. Nemo is determined to find that map herself as it may allow her to be at least able to dream of her father. But traveling through Slumberland isn’t all that easy, and maybe Flip and Nemo need to work together to figure things out.

Slumberland is a wonderfully entertaining and creative family movie that I enjoyed a lot and that even got a tear or two from me. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely fun.

The film poster showing Flip (Jason Momoa), Nemo (Marlow Barkley) and her stuffed pig in a plane over the ocean, a lighthouse behind them.

I knew very little about Slumberland before seeing it, just that Momoa and O’Dowd were in it. I’m not familiar with the comic strip at all. In fact, I only just learned it was based on one in the first place. So I was very surprised when Nemo’s dad died in the first 15 minutes – and actually stays dead. That the film takes on grief as a topic is a challenge for a children’s movie, but I thought they did very well with it. The way Nemo tries to outrun and outwit her grief, desperately clinging to her dreams as if she could live there forever. The way her grief won’t let go of her. And the way it cautions us that running away from reality too long isn’t good for anyone.

But those messages are not at the forefront of the film. The film revels much more in Slumberland itself. And I really enjoyed the varied and quite funny and beautiful dreamscapes they visit in the course of the film. Despite all that stuff about grief (and that includes grieving a part of yourself), the film is mostly light-hearted fun with a good sense of adventure – just like you’d want it in a family film.

Flip (Jason Momoa) and Nemo (Marlow Barkley) holding on to a car.

Barkley does pretty will in a challenging role, and her stuffed pig is just awesome. Momoa is pretty funny, though I wouldn’t have minded if the film had dialed Flip’s horniness back a little. It felt a bit stereotypical, veering towards misogyny. O’Dowd was my personal highlight, though (he usually is, so that’s no surprise). His hopelessly overwhelmed, utterly boring Philip had a surprising vulnerability that made him absolutely adorable.

I’m pretty sure that I would have adored Slumberland as a kid. I definitely had a whole lot of fun with it as an adult.

Nemo (Marlow Barkley) and Flip (Jason Momoa) flying on a giant goose.

Summarizing: good times.

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