This inventive ride, driven by perceptive performances from its stars, particularly young Marlow Barkley, blends family-friendly adventure with mature themes like overcoming grief and loss.
Looking like Jack Sparrow meets Guns-n-Roses' Slash, Jason Momoa is purposefully excessive as a guide through dreams in Slumberland. Just when he starts to get obnoxious, though, the filmmakers throw out a narrative curveball that reveals his sensitive side.
Chris O'Dowd is known for intuitive, understated acting, and he's vulnerable and sympathetic as the awkward uncle googling "how to raise a child" and reading up on "how to talk tween." In beard and fisherman's sweater, Kyle Chandler embodies the ideal father. But it's relative newcomer Barkley who steals the show as the grieving but courageous youngster. She is credible in every scene, no matter how unbelievable the set-up.
The script pulls together various threads about these and other characters and situations with revelatory pay-offs along the way. It's hard to know where the story is going next, which makes the film fun to watch, despite some over-the-top scenarios and other, emotionally taxing themes and scenes.
The high-budget production design and effects are captivating, with creative dreamscapes like salsa bands made out of leaves and a shadowy nightmare octopus reminiscent of an underwater Mind Flayer. A cadre of Pam Grier-ish Black female agents overseeing people's dreams are hilariously stuck in '70s wardrobe and décor for no real reason. Other secondary characters are equally memorable. The plotline and narrative interactions between "slumberland" and "waking life" offer insights into the characters, and into the human condition in general.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Netflix.