Cinema: Dreambuilders (2020)
Minna is a young dreamer who lives with her father. They share a special bond which developed after Minna’s mother left them when she was younger. Minna’s life is about to be changed drastically when her new stepsister Jenny and her mother come to live with them. Minna and Jenny are like chalk and cheese and couldn’t be more different. Minna is a gentle soul who likes nature and loves her pet hamster, (named Viggo Mortenson!?) whereas Jenny is an obnoxious little shit who stares at her phone all day and only cares about how many followers she has on social media.
At night Minna escapes from her reality through dreams, but during one particularly vivid dream she realises something is amiss. Minna discovers her dreams are being created by creatures using elaborate movie sets! She realises her dreams can influence real life and sets about a plan to change Jenny’s behaviour and attitude. As you can imagine this starts well enough, but things start to go wrong and Minna discovers if you stay in the dream world too long, you don’t wake up in real life!
If you’re a movie fan you can probably tell from reading the first couple of paragraphs in this review, Dreambuilders takes ideas from various movies including The Truman Show, Monsters Inc, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Inception.
Dreambuilders has a really neat concept and attempts to tackle bold subject matter, including separation, (cyber) bullying, and false reality. Although Minna lives in a dream world which isn’t real, Jenny lives in reality which is completely fake, and her happiness is measured by her social media presence. Who is actually living the real life?
On one level I applaud the makers of Dreambuilders for creating something different than your usual kids’ movie, but unfortunately, the execution isn’t as good as the idea. I’d imagine the marketing people had the same problem I did which is trying to determine who this film is aimed at? I’m not saying you have to “dumb” down kids’ movies, but a lot of the content will inevitably go over a younger audiences head. The creatures making the dreams are cute so would entice a younger audience, but the rest of the movie would be too dense for them to understand. Whereas I don’t think pre-teens, or teenagers will be particularly interested. I watched the movie with my 3 and 8-year-olds, and whilst they stuck with it (probably because good old dad was watching it and providing movie snacks!) they clearly didn’t get it.
Something else that caught my eye/ear is when Minna discovers Jenny has been posting unflattering photos of her online, making fun of her clothes and appearance. The voices of Jenny’s followers can be heard in Minna’s head as they comment, and I caught one saying, “if you were my step sister, I’d kill myself!” I personally don’t think this is appropriate for a kid’s movie, but you make your own mind up. Also, who calls their pet Viggo Mortenson!? A big portion of the movie was my kids trying to decide what the bloody thing was called! Is it Viggy, Figgy, Figo, Nico?
On a positive note, the animation is fine, and actually looks really nice in places, particularly the dream sequences. The voice acting is ok, but that’s is as far as it goes.
I wanted to like Dreambuilders a lot more than I did. It has a cool idea and it tries to tackle some brave subjects, but like a lot of dreams, it ends up being instantly forgettable.
Review by Chris from an online screening link kindly supplied by Signature Entertainment.