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Slumberland review: Jason Momoa's a riot in children’s film about dealing with grief, but that isn't enough

Despite its feel-good vibe, the film remains unremarkable overall

Slumberland review: Jason Momoa's a riot in children’s film about dealing with grief, but that isn't enough
Jason Momoa and Marlow Barkley in a still from the film
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 11.54 AM, Nov 22, 2022


Story: Young Nemo (Marlow Barkley) lives with her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler), at a lighthouse, that she hopes to someday inherit and continue his tradition of guiding travellers along their journey. Peter and Nemo’s favourite pastime is when he beguiles her with stories about adventures with an outlaw called Flip, including treasure hunts, fighting deadly creatures and trying to get a pearl from the Sea of Nightmares that will grant them any wish. Nemo is quite certain her dad’s stories are true, so, when he perishes at sea in a rescue mission gone wrong, she sets out to find the pearl to see her dad again.

Review: A fantasy film for kids aged 7+, shouldn’t exactly be on my Netflix recommendation list, but when it popped up, I couldn’t resist checking it out. It has Jason Momoa on its cast. The film wasn’t as fun as his Instagram page, but wasn’t a complete waste of two hours either. It was somewhere in the zone of, ‘I don’t know why I watched it, but it was okay’.

Slumberland is being promoted as this fantasy drama wherein a young child heads off on an adventure of a lifetime with an outlaw. The child, Nemo, has just been orphaned and must now live with her uncle, Philip (Chris O’Dowd), a doorknob salesperson with a love for locks. Philip had been estranged from Peter for a while and has no idea how to bond with Nemo, although he desperately wants to.

The outlaw, Flip is played by Momoa, a Captain Sparrow meets Mr Tumnus (with horns, though), with an outrageous sense of fashion. Together they navigate through Slumberland, moving through different people’s dreams, with Agent Green (Weruche Opia) from the office that governs the dream world hot in pursuit of Flip. All the action takes place in Nemo’s dreams, which has her leaping into those of others too, which, in turn, explains the film’s two-hour run-time. Well, there have to be some ‘waking moments’ too.

A still from the film
A still from the film

The film, though, is more than just the journey to find the pearl that grants a wish. It is about coming to terms with grief, the loss of a loved one and learning to move on. In doing so, it has a feel-good vibe to it.

As Flip, Momoa is just the right amount of flamboyant, and is the perfect foil for Barkley’s Nemo. He’s also not overbearing and doesn’t make it a Momoa show all the way, even though he is the biggest name on the cast.

Verdict: Slumberland is based on a comic strip called Little Nemo in Slumberland, which came in the New York Herald in the early 20thcentury. As someone who has never read the comic strips, or any of the earlier onscreen adaptations, I judge Slumberland based solely on what meets the eye. The production values are rich, the characters are likeable, and yet, at the end of the film, there’s nothing worth mentioning as a stand-out element. It was just okay. Or as we in India would say, it was timepass.