It was inevitable. With the recent opening of Universal’s Notebook World and the runaway success of Six Flags Over Rachel Getting Married, it was only a matter of time before Love, Actually got the theme park treatment, especially given its status as perennial source of online debate. Yearly, the masses howl: timeless classic, or overbaked fluff? It’s both, really, and now it’s a vacation destination, one I visited after its savvy opening at the start of the holiday season.
I’ll say this: it’s an immersive experience. As arrive in the parking lot, Bill Nighy’s cover of Christmas Is All Around seems to come from everywhere, Big Ben chimes in the distance, and the air itself somehow has been scented with fish and chips. Guests then board a tram shaped like Emma Thompson, carrying everyone to the entrance with the same steadfast energy she carried the weight of raising a family under the strain of a loveless marriage.
The ride was bumpy. I think that was the point.
Disembarking from Emma, we approached the ticket pavillion. I’ve heard complaints about the entrance fees, and to be sure the All-Inclusive, Actually package runs steep, but the Thifty, Actually pass is quite reasonable, especially with the Liam Neeson bobblehead. That the park only accepts pounds sterling while located outside Dayton, Ohio is annoying but I can respect the attention to detail.
We joined the stream of people entering the park, walking beneath the enormous stone Alan Rickman. With motion sensor technology, Alan gives a pained sigh as each person passes between his legs. As to the existence of an exclusive honeymoon suite at the very top of Alan Rickman, park staff would neither confirm nor deny.
Near the entrance are the kid-friendly rides. I loved the park’s take on a traditional ball pit, The Rowan Atkinson Gift-Wrap Experience, which has guests wading through an enormous shopping bag as wood shavings, evergreen springs and glitter rain down on them. For the safety-conscious, I can share that during my visit, one kid started to panic and was quickly tossed an enormous gold necklace to climb out.
From here I tried the Laura Linney’s Even-Keel Express, a slow-moving train circling the park. It does give you a good sense of the park’s layout and captures the…