12th Feb2021

‘Willy’s Wonderland’ VOD Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Rick Reitz, Beth Grant, Caylee Cowan, Willy Weasel | Written by G.O. Parsons | Directed by Kevin Lewis

In my humble opinion Willy’s Wonderland is easily the best movie of Nic Cage’s career! I thought it was impossible for Nicolas Cage to get back to the winning ways of the mid 90s… Remember that 5 year run when he dropped The Rock, Con Air, Face Off, Kiss of Death, Snake Eyes and a couple more? Seriously between 1995 and 2000 Cage made about 9 absolute bangers and won an Oscar. Since then he has been stuck in a somewhat middling ground with a 50/50 ratio of good to bad movies.

Then somewhere around 2016-17 Cage seemingly decided it is time to just embrace the nonsense. Mom and Dad came out and banged, Mandy, Colour Out of Space, Primal, Jiu Jitsu and now Willy’s Wonderland. I’m not saying he has stopped making misfires but, much like his time in the mid 90s, I genuinely feel like he is on the run of his career right now and all because he has decided to let the Cage Rage out. Let’s talk about Willy’s Wonderland!

The Janitor (Cage) is quiet and lonely drifter moving through life at break neck speeds without a care in the world. All of sudden his plans are changed when an “accident” causes flat tyres on his car and he is forced to make a stop at a small back water town. Unable to afford the repairs, kind stranger Tex Macadoo (awesome name) offers to pay for the repairs and in return The Janitor must tidy up Willy’s Wonderland a condemned ‘Chuck E Cheese’ style restaurant. What begins as night of mundane menial tasks quickly turns into a brutal “Oil-Bathed” fight for survival as Willy Weasel and his demonic animatronic friends invite him to their Super Fun Room!

First thing I am going to say about this movie is thank you… Director Kevin Lewis and Writer G.O. Parsons thank you. Thank you so much for creating this absolutely off the wall bonkers thrill ride, harkening back to a sweet spot in 80/90s cinema, with a twist of modern day sensibilities. For me Willy’s Wonderland is 2021’s Turbo Kid, oh shut up put your tweets away and calm down it’s a point of opinion and there is a good chance I won’t agree with yours. Sometimes a movie just has to entertain and if it leaves me with more questions than answers and the only answer I do get is “Because, Why Not?” well you can call me bloody entertained. 2020 was a pants year and 2021 isn’t shaping up to be much better, so right now I don’t need some Christopher Nolan mind bending, overly introspective drama; I need Nic Cage kicking the crap out of a Weasel puppet!

Now let’s talk casting. Cage as The Janitor is superb, this may be a spoiler – I don’t know because I read this someplace anyway but Cage has zero, ZERO, lines of dialogue. He is the definition of the cool strong silent type and every time you think he is about to say something wholly profound… He doesn’t. It does mean that his Cage Rage is dialed back a little bit, but when he snaps and loses his sh*t, oh does he lose his sh*t! Because of his lack of dialogue we are introduced to a young group of teens to drive what little plot and back story there is. Emily Tosta is wonderful in this Juliette Lewis-esque From Dusk Till Dawn style role with all the strength needed to survive but also out of her depth. I haven’t seen Tosta in much apart from Mayans but she impressed me here.

I realise Willy’s Wonderland probably didn’t have the biggest budget ever and I’m super glad of that fact because practical is always the way to go with this type of flick and I loved all of the animatronics involved. The DOP and editor make handy work of the lighting and quick smash cuts to make everything feel a whole load more brutal and make the puppets look less rubbish but for me everything is working here. The score is bloody great too, with some popular songs popping up but also a few original songs with lyrics such as the birthday song about the Super Fun Room.

You know what? Honestly, I have zero complaints. I’ve been looking forward to this movie for months and knew what I was getting in for. It met all of my expectations and exceeded a few. Yes the back story of Willy’s is hooky as hell (as it should be); the character of The Janitor doesn’t make a lick of sense (as it should be); I’m not sure why between each kill he takes a break, drinks a beer and plays pinball other than because Tex Macadoo (still an awesome name) tells him he must take his breaks; but I don’t really give a hoot. The plot is great, the action is great, the cast are great and I jumped balls deep into this movie. Please sir give me a Willy’s Wonderland sequel!

Sod scoring this… In fact I’m giving this 6 out of 5, as this is – hands down – the most fun I’ve had in ages, if you like Benny Loves You, Turbo Kid, Psycho Goreman or Slaxxx then you should get a real kick out of this one. I can hear people now: “But Kevin how could you blast WW84 for 20 minutes on YouTube then drop a review praising this to the heaven… Wah, Wah, Waaaaah!” My answer to them is if you have to ask, it’s not a conversation worth my time. I freaking loved this one!

****** 6/5

Signature Entertainment presents Willy’s Wonderland home premiere on digital platforms from today, February 12th 2021.

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