Review by Sean Boelman
It’s always nice to see a film by an up-and-coming filmmaker and starring a cast composed mostly of unknowns. Unfortunately, these movies don’t always live up to their promise. The Park isn’t unwatchable, but that doesn’t mean that there is much of a reason to watch this largely underwhelming and underdeveloped dystopia.
The film is set in a near-present alternate future in which a virus has killed all of the adults on Earth, and several warring factions of children are left to fight for control. It’s a premise we’ve seen done a million times before, but filmmaker Shal Ngo’s vision seemed to be more fun and creative. In reality, it’s a carbon-copy of so many other works of cinema and literature with a similar premise.
At a merciful 76 minutes including credits, it’s hard to say that the movie outstays its welcome, but it also hardly earns it. It feels like the first half of the first third of a sci-fi YA series. In other words, as set-up, it would have been passable; but as a self-contained feature film, it feels as if they ran out of money to make the third act.
The character development is as weak as one would expect with such a short runtime. There just isn’t enough time for us to get to know the characters beyond their archetypes. It’s initially intriguing to see all of these archetypes that are typically applied to teenagers seen in younger kids, but this novelty wears off extremely quickly.
Ultimately, the biggest shortcoming of the movie is its dialogue, which is often borderline atrocious. Of course, no one comes to a post-apocalyptic film about a dystopia ruled by children to experience realism. However, it isn’t outside of reason to ask for something that at least resembles the sharpness of Lord of the Flies — even if it doesn’t come close to touching Salinger.
And while that may be the biggest weakness, the biggest disappointment is that the movie doesn’t do anything particularly interesting with its world-building. The setting is immediately compelling — a dilapidated amusement park — so for the film not to do anything with that potential is enormously frustrating. The story just as easily could have taken place in a cityscape, meaning that the post-apocalyptic world of the movie is entirely nondescript.
The young actors do a decent job considering the caliber of material they are given to work with. Yes, the performances often feel like a more sick and twisted version of Disney Channel stars, but that seems to be exactly what Ngo is going for (and in some cases, that’s their actual background). Some of the performers, like Chloe Guidry and Carmina Garay, could have bright futures ahead of them.
Thankfully, with it being as short as it is, it’s hard to fully hate The Park, if only because its pacing is so quick that you’ll never get bored. Still, it feels like a waste of potential due to its generic world and story that feels frustratingly incomplete.
The Park hits VOD on March 2.