Slumberland (2022) Netflix Review: A Magical and Enchanting Film

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Netflix’s Slumberland: A Fantastical Journey


Children’s fantasy films are a genre that often struggles to captivate audiences, but occasionally, there are those rare gems that succeed in delighting both young and old. In the realm of magical tales, franchises like Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, The NeverEnding Story, and The Chronicles of Narnia have managed to enchant viewers with their captivating worlds and imaginative storytelling. However, not every attempt to capture the magic of children’s fantasy is successful, leading to lukewarm reactions from audiences and lackluster sequels and spin-offs. This begs the question: Why is it so challenging to replicate the sense of wonder that captivates adults and children alike?

A Peculiar Addition to Francis Lawrence’s Filmography

Netflix’s Slumberland, directed by Francis Lawrence, is a peculiar addition to his filmography. While it may entertain young children, it may also lull parents into a cozy slumber. Based on Winsor McCay’s comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” the film follows a young girl named Nemo on a journey to reunite with her late father in the dreamworld of Slumberland. With previous experience in children’s fantasy through projects like The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Netflix aims to continue its success in this genre.

An Ambitious Adventure with Abundant Complexity

Slumberland proves to be a movie that is more complex than expected, though not necessarily due to its layered narrative or intricate ideas. Instead, what makes it challenging to dissect is the sheer abundance of elements at play. The film starts with an endearing sense of adventure as we are introduced to Nemo and her strong bond with her father, Peter. Young actress Marlow Barkley delivers a remarkable performance, bringing depth to her character despite the limited material. Barkley’s chemistry with Kyle Chandler, who portrays Peter, and their onscreen relationship create a warm and captivating atmosphere.

The Dichotomy of Tones

The main issue plaguing Slumberland is its inconsistent tone. On one hand, we have a compelling family drama unfolding in the real world, where Nemo forms a close bond with her uncle, Philip. Chris O’Dowd’s portrayal of Philip adds emotional depth to the film, addressing themes that are surprisingly thought-provoking for younger viewers. Unfortunately, the film’s obnoxious and uninspired dreamworld often disrupts the emotional momentum built in the real world. Director Francis Lawrence attempts to utilize dreams as a means for Nemo to overcome her grief, but the stark contrast between the two tones results in a disjointed viewing experience, almost like watching two separate movies.

A Charismatic Misfit

Even with a cast that includes the charismatic Jason Momoa, his portrayal of Flip feels out of place in Slumberland. While Momoa’s performance attempts to channel the quirky charm reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s comedic antics, it ultimately falls flat. Flip, a character who refuses to let go of his childlike wonder, becomes an overwhelming presence that detracts from the overall narrative. Instead of endearing himself to the audience, viewers may find themselves longing for Nemo to wake up from her dreams and continue her journey in the real world.

The Visual Ambiguity of Slumberland

Credit must be given to cinematographer Jo Willems for the visually stunning early scenes, particularly those featuring Peter telling captivating stories. However, as Nemo embarks on her dream-filled adventure, the film’s visual language loses its appeal and becomes uninspired. This is unexpected, especially considering Netflix’s recent success with The Sandman, which showcased a creative and fresh depiction of dreamscapes. In Slumberland, the visual exploration is limited, with the dream world largely consisting of a shiny city made of glass and a ballroom filled with people made out of flowers. Although these dreams belong to characters other than Nemo, the overall lack of visual imagination is disappointing.

A Flawed Dream with a Heart in the Right Place

While this article may seem critical, it is important to note that the perspective is that of an adult who can recognize the film’s tonal and structural issues. From a child’s standpoint, Slumberland is an enjoyable movie to watch with family on a Saturday night. Its real-world plotlines offer compelling narratives for parents to invest in, while the silliness and imaginative visuals provide entertainment for kids, allowing them to switch off and have fun. Whether or not parents manage to stay awake throughout the entire film is a subjective and individual experience.


In conclusion, Netflix’s Slumberland is a peculiar addition to Francis Lawrence’s filmography. While it may not quite capture the enchanting magic of children’s fantasy, it provides an entertaining experience for young viewers and offers intriguing themes for them to explore. Despite its tonal inconsistencies and visual shortcomings, Slumberland can still be enjoyed as a lighthearted adventure for families to share.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Slumberland appropriate for all age groups?

Slumberland is primarily targeted towards younger audiences, but it can be enjoyed by viewers of all ages. Parents can find elements to appreciate, while children can be engaged with its imaginative world and humorous moments.

2. How does Slumberland compare to other children’s fantasy films?

While Slumberland may not reach the same heights as beloved franchises like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, it still manages to provide an entertaining experience. Its unique blend of real-world drama and dreamworld adventures sets it apart from other films in the genre.

3. Are there any standout performances in Slumberland?

Marlow Barkley delivers a remarkable performance as Nemo, showcasing her talent as a young actress. Additionally, Chris O’Dowd’s portrayal of Philip adds depth to the film’s emotional core.

4. Does Slumberland offer any relatable themes for children?

Yes, Slumberland explores themes of grief, family bonds, and the importance of embracing one’s imagination. These themes provide opportunities for children to reflect and connect with the story on a deeper level.

5. Does Slumberland leave room for sequels or spin-offs?

While the film’s reception may determine the potential for follow-up projects, Slumberland’s self-contained narrative allows it to stand alone as a single adventure.