A mute Nic Cage vs a horde of killer mascot robots
WILLY'S WONDERLAND (2021)
A mute Nic Cage vs a horde of killer mascot robots. Sounds like a great time! However, the actual experience does not live up to the premise.
Kevin Lewis leaves a lot to be desired with his picture, Willy's Wonderland. The film's premise is so great because of the idea of Nicolas Cage fighting a horde of robotic theme park characters, and while that does happen, the way it's shot transforms what should have been a crazy fun action scene into a shaky cam mess. Every scene with even the slightest action is like this and it's nauseating to sit through, especially knowing how much better it could have been. While those key moments are poorly filmed, the break room scenes and scenes of The Janitor cleaning are expertly filmed; if only those were the sequences we were dying to see. I will say that during a break room scene, Lewis' filming of a particular pinball game later in the film overtakes any of the fight sequences easily and makes for a very "Nic Cage" moment that fans will absolutely love (and laugh at).
G.O. Parsons delivers half a great film with a hilarious performance by a silent Nic Cage kicking mechanic ass and taking names. Sadly the entire film couldn't anchor only on these fights (even though the direction ruins them), as Willy's Wonderland explores the lore of the place, as well as the townsfolk surrounding the establishment. Everything involving The Janitor (Cage) is terrific, but everything involving any other character without The Janitor in the scene is irritating. If there's going to be a lore behind the killer robots, make it compelling; the way it's told leaves such an unwelcome taste. Let killer robots be killer robots! There is no reason to expand beyond that, because doing so brings about some of the more irritating performances.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Nic Cage is the star of the show and unexpectedly says absolutely nothing the entire film. Yet somehow Nic Cage being Nic Cage manages to make it work, and oh boy does he kick ass. Nic Cage is unsurprisingly funny with his facial reactions and lack thereof, kicking some robotic ass with zero hesitation. The side characters that are forced into the story to make for some human carnage are where the film somewhat falls apart. Beth Grant (Sheriff Lund) has been in over 200 projects including the likes of Speed and Little Miss Sunshine and usually takes on the more unlikable roles, but in this case it wasn’t just that she was unlikable, it was her wooden dialogue. This extends out to our secondary lead Emily Tosta (Liv) and her group of friends, as well as the town’s deputy lacking humanity in their conversations. The only saving grace in the side characters happens to be the owner of Willy’s Wonderland, Ric Reitz (Tex Macadoo), and the town mechanic, as they both have a silly nature to their delivery and it works with the dialogue given. When Tex tells The Janitor (Nic Cage) that he is “officially on staff,” I let out a small chuckle. The way that he and the mechanic interacts with The Janitor is exactly how the rest of the film should have played out.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
To put it simply, the costume design is phenomenal. The killer robots look horrific and stellar at the same time. I can imagine these characters being the dancing/singing entertainment at one of those restaurants similar to an establishment like Chuck E. Cheese. Nicolas Cage from first glance looks like either an arrogant stranger or a badass depending on the situation, purely from the outfit Cage wears prior to becoming a Willy’s Wonderland staff member. Willy’s Wonderland (the location) is incredible as well, that is in the obvious places, such as the main dining room, although lacking with its portrayal of the actual “arcade” area apart from some side characters falling into a conveniently placed ball pit. When it comes to blood, the oil of the robots instead of gore was a special touch and the actual blood we received gave the film a wonderful B-Movie appeal.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Émoi is a triple threat: composing and creating all the music within Willy’s Wonderland while also providing the voice of the title character Willy. Émoi provides some of the best aspects of the film (alongside music supervisor Rupert Hollier). “The Birthday Song” in particular stays with you long after the credits finish their scroll. The Willy's Wonderland “show” character catchphrases sound great with the robotic voices that unlock some good/bad childhood memories. The score is haunting, thrilling, and exactly what a film like this needed to excel in the areas it should have.
Willy’s Wonderland has everything it needs to be the ultimate B-Movie but squanders its chances with terribly shot action, irritating side characters, and a dull explanation for everything happening within the rundown Willy’s Wonderland. Nic Cage unreservedly kills it, and so do the animatronics, however the rest of the film sorrowfully does not.