‘Slumberland’ traps Jason Momoa in a nightmare of a movie


A movie about dreams becomes the stuff of nightmares in Netflix’s “Slumberland,” an attempt to build a fantasy adventure out of the bones of the early 20th century newspaper comic strip. Most notable as a vehicle for Jason Momoa, this would-be show from “The Hunger Games” director Francis Lawrence offers plenty of special effects in search of a desperate story.

The plot begins with a familiar set-up from a children’s movie: a young woman named Nemo (Marlow Barkley, in a gender-swap from the comic) who lives in a lighthouse far from the world with her doting father (Kyle Chandler). When Dad is lost at sea, he is sent to live with his buttoned-up uncle (Chris O’Dowd) in the big city, finding escape in his dreams.

The realm of dreams is described as “a world of no consequence,” but as it’s constructed, that arrives in a film without a clear creative compass, coming off as more mystifying than magical. Alternately stupid and deranged, the former impulse is embodied by Momoa’s Flip, who resides in the dream world and, with his horns and hat, resembles an unholy cross between the Mad Hatter, the Ghost of Christmas Present and a refugee from the island of Dr. . more

Nemo and Flip embark on a series of adventures in search of a precious artifact, with the promise that by traveling through each other’s dreams, he will somehow be able to see his father again. Along the way, they run into something called the Bureau of Subconscious Activities, a surreal bureaucracy that sees Flip as an outlaw.

Netflix has already made a big bet on dreams with “The Sandman,” but the overall conceit here is generally reminiscent of the classic film “Time Bandits,” though any comparison only reflects how difficult it is to master this combination of whimsy and irreverence and how remarkably “Slumberland” fails to do so.

Perhaps most of all, it’s hard to determine who “Slumberland” is aimed at, other than Momoa fans and a younger audience numbed enough by video games, perhaps, to be dazzled by the inventive production design and reassured by the thinness of the history

Streaming services are obviously dazzled by the marketing value of star power, and Momoa, who appeared opposite another girl, the sad “Sweet Girl” last year, as well as the previous series “Frontier”, as always provides a dose of muscle. However, these attributes feel wasted in the surreal confines of “Slumberland,” which, as theme park names suggest, doesn’t even qualify as a pleasant place to visit.

“Slumberland” premieres Nov. 18 on Netflix.

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