In Netflix’s Slumberland, Jason Momoa goes completely Fun Dad

Say the name “Nemo” to someone, and they’ll likely think you mean the fish from the Pixar movie. Absent that, they’ll think of the avenging submarine captain 20,000 leagues under the sea. (or The Association of Extraordinary Gentlemen.) But if their first association with “Nemo” is a young boy with big dreams, you’ll know you’re talking to someone steeped in the worlds of animation, filmmaking, or comics. Winsor MacKay’s Illustrated Newspaper from the Early Nineteenth Century Little Nemo in Slumberland He has inspired designs from R. Crumb to Neil Gaiman, and from Federico Fellini to Maurice Sendak.

More recently, director Francis Lawrence (Constantinethe final films of the Hunger Games franchise) and writing team David Guion and Michael Handelman (Dinner for idiotsAnd the Night at the Museum: The Secret of the Tomb) to revisit the world of Nemo at Netflix, in a heartwarming and visually rich production called slumberland.

slumberland Summarizing the “traditions” of the McCay comic strip down to its most essential pieces. The good baby returns to a magical task every time he falls asleep. They’re dealing with a notorious boyfriend, and they seem to get up every time the action comes to a head. By the way, choosing to boil a Mackay down to basics is a good thing; His triumph was in form, not narrative and origin Little Nemo The comics are aloof from explicit racial profiling.

Nemo, in this modern incarnation, is Marlowe Barclay (Single parents), a girl forced by the loss of a parent to leave her idyllic lighthouse home and live with her very boring and ill-equipped uncle. She finds refuge in the titular Slumberland when she meets Flip (Jason Momoa), who has been largely reinvented from McKay’s racist, clown-like caricature of an Irishman. Momoa’s version of the character is a formidable outlaw/hedonistic adventurer, all fangs, ram’s horns, clown shoes, fingerless gloves, shaggy hair, and nail polish, topped with a pink ombre coat. (My hat is off to Oscar-nominated Hunger Games series creator Trish Summerville.)

Image: Netflix

Barkley plays the straight guy (or girl) in the relationship, while Momoa plays the Beetlejuice—by way of an animated avatar of the character, that is, as Lydia Deets’ friend, not her nemesis. Flip is just wild enough to make Nemo feel like she’s getting away with something, but not so extreme that it feels like it seriously dangerous. Momoa plays Flip with palpable gusto, in a clown performance that never feels clownishish. Without an iota of self-awareness, he’s repurposed the knack for powerful poses he brings to his DCEU taking on Aquaman, using it for kid-friendly rants instead. It’s Jason Momoa maybe in the dad role yet, dad and all.

Even more impressive, Momoa has never outgrown his diminutive co-star. It is one of the many ways in which it is done slumberland Finely balanced. Is it full of scenery? The obvious: cities made of glass, nightmares underwater, Canada geese the size of fighter jets. But Lawrence never delivers scene for scene’s sake, and the creativity of environments never becomes more important to the eye than the work of character.

is this funny? Yes: I laughed out loud more than once. But slumberland is the rare action-packed family movie that doesn’t trade in pop culture references and satirical sides to tickle the adult funny bone. Is there a lot of exposition? Yes, there is a foundation of dream rules in the universe and a hostile bureaucracy of the 1970s Dream Police, serving as rails to keep the mission on track and providing hurdles to overcome. But slumberland Never Put World-Building Forefront Its true center: Nemo, Flip, and Nemo’s Wet Blanket for Uncle, played by Chris O’Dowd in a forward from behind.

Marlowe Barclay as Nemo in Slumberland, perched on her bed, her hair wet, with her stuffed animatronic pig.  The bed floats on a serene ocean, lit by the near-full moon and the Northern Lights.

Image: Netflix

if slumberland Excessive in any class, length may be. While two full hours is a forgivable amount of time in this world of three-hour movies, sitting still can be tough for the youngest audience. And while slumberland It never made me yawn, it made me check the runtime timestamp and think, “Oh my God, another 40 minutes? How? ”

Real fun to watch slumberland Not in its ingenuity or originality – it’s a B on both fronts – but in the delight of simple traits so well performed by talented players, matched with greater resonance. I’m a big believer in family movies that can’t be strictly described as “great” in any way, but where the filmmakers had the guts to go is pretty weird. There are a whole bunch of movies like that, movies that feel like fever dreams when you remember them years later.

slumberland It may not really belong in that category, but it’s certainly closer to it than most blockbuster family movie fare today. It’s a colorful fantasy, an intimate time, and the kind of weirdness that might get stuck in the head of a creative young model. This may be the element of the film that best adapts to McCay’s work: his century-old fantasies provided the seed of an idea that continues to blossom into sweet dreams, generation after generation.

slumberland Streaming on Netflix now.

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