Willy's Wonderland Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Kevin Lewis
Written by G.O. Parsons
2021, 88 minutes, Rated 15
Released on February 12th 2021
Nicolas Cage as The Janitor
Beth Grant as Sheriff Lund
Emily Tosta as Liv Hawthorne
Caylee Cowan as Kathy
It's a good time to be a fan of Nicolas Cage. The last three years alone have given us his Mom and Dad, Mandy, Primal, Jiu Jitsu and Color Out of Space, in addition to smaller roles in bigger movies like Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and Into the Spider-Verse. True, one could never accuse the actor (currently sitting at 106 credits on IMDb) of being lazy, but audiences have been spoiled, of late. This has been the strongest run of Nicolas Cage movies since his incredible hat-trick of 1996 and 1997. They can't all be winners, of course, but I'll take trash like Running With the Devil and A Score to Settle when it also nets us arthouse gold like Mandy and Color Out of Space.
Enter Kevin Lewis's Five Nights at Freddy's rip-off, Willy's Wonderland. In it, Nicolas Cage plays an unnamed, silent drifter, whose car is sabotaged while he drives through small town America. In exchange for repairs, 'The Janitor' agrees to take on a shift at the condemned novelty restaurant, Willy's Wonderland. Locked in overnight while he cleans up the joint, The Janitor is quick to learn that he's not alone. Attacked by the demonic Willy and his chums, The Janitor faces a gauntlet of bloodthirsty animatronics standing between him and his car. But with The Janitor being more than capable of holding his own, it seems that this time Willy's Wonderland has bitten off more than it can chew.
Also chewing: Nicolas Cage. On the scenery. Even in this non-speaking role, Cage continues to demonstrate his prowess as one of the most interesting actors working today. The Janitor is a typically eccentric role for this era's Nicolas Cage: a surly, weird badass, loaded to the hilt with idiosyncrasies and odd mannerisms. In this case, it's his addiction to energy drinks, commitment to the job and rigid break-taking regime.
Were Willy's Wonderland just Nicolas Cage battling murderous animatronics for an hour and a half, it could have been up there as one of the actor's best genre films yet. Alas, the film is bogged down by horrible side characters and a weak supporting cast. In their need for cannon fodder, Lewis and writer G.O. Parsons enlist Liv (Emily Tosta) and her idiot friends, who break into Willy's Wonderland to help The Janitor out. Which would be fine if the Scooby gang – knowing full well the danger they're in – didn't immediately split up and start fucking in the other rooms. No-one who isn't Nicolas Cage acts with any sense of logic or internal consistency – extending to the town Sheriff (Beth Grant) and her dimwit deputy. Are they reluctant pawns in Willy's game, or willing and culpable agents of his evil?
Thankfully, most of the supporting characters are only there to die anyway, and this they do in style. Willy and the puppets look terrific; a plausible threat to The Janitor and his doomed companions. Where The Banana Splits Movie was unable to do much with its clunky cartoon characters, these demonic avatars look great and feel genuinely dangerous. It's From Dusk Till Dawn meets Child's Play – with a few shades of Evil Dead 2 thrown in for good measure.
It combines a bravura Nic Cage performance with all the gory genre action one could have hoped for from the concept. This all goes downhill anytime anyone opens their mouth, but as a vehicle for Nicolas Cage beating the shit out of giant robot teddy bears? It can't be beaten.
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