Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Film: Nicolas Cage has had an interesting career… highs like Con Air and Face/Off, and lows like the Wicker Man remake, and then there is the absolute batcrap crazy stuff that he has been putting his name to since about 2018. It seems that the man has become the meme, and do I have a problem with that?
HELL no! If there is one thing that upgraded-hair Nic Cage can do, and do like NO ONE else can, it’s batcrap crazy, and in a fantastic move, filmmakers have decided that employing Cage the Meme is a far better idea, and the films being released with him in it have just been nothing short of odder than the loose sock box and a thrift store.
Willy’s Wonderland is the product of the mind of screenplay writer G. O. Parsons and director Kevin Lewis and boy-oh-boy, if all you want in 90 minutes of Cage not speaking and beating 5 different colours of oil out of some Five Nights at Freddy’s styled robots, you’re in for a treat.
If you are looking for a sensible and intelligent script with the absolute pinnacle of acting and special effects so real you can’t tell them apart from reality, you may not enjoy this… actually, why are you reading this at all?!?
Nic Cage played a character only known as ‘The Janitor’, a silent loner with an addiction to soft drinks, who’s pretty damned cool car is crippled when he comes across some police road spikes. The local mechanic/ tow truck driver, Jed (Chris Warner) only takes cash and his in-house ATM is down, so what will our hero do?
Luckily for him, owner of local burger joint Willy’s Wonderland, Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz), has a proposition: clean up the restaurant overnight, and he’ll cover the costs of the repairs of his vehicle.
Our hero reluctantly agrees, and discovers two things about the restaurant. The first is that it’s condition is best described as ‘absolutely disgusting) and second, IT’S FILLED WITH ANIMATRONIC ROBOTS MADE FOR CHILDREN’S PARTIES BUT NOW JUST PROGRAMMED TO KILL, KILL, KILL!!!
The Janitor’s night of cleaning quickly becomes a night of violent survival, and the potential for carnage escalates when you include a bunch of local kids, headed up by Liv (Emily Tosta), who are trying to burn the place down, and the local constabulary, Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), who seems to have secrets and motivations, involving a cult of serial killers, that are revealed as our story unfolds…
My first thoughts on this film was ‘oh crikey, what a rip off’ when you consider it’s similarity to Scott Cawthorn’s 2014 video game Five Night at Freddy’s, which tells a less violent version of the same story, and even 2019’s The Banana Splits movie, which tells a comparable tale, but with a much-loved kids TV show at its core. Realistically, it could have also been described as a homage to John Swartzwelder’s 1994 episode of The Simpsons, in which the robot entertainment of Itchy and Scratchyland goes haywire and start attacking the staff and visitors to the park, which in itself was a homage to many sources, including Jurassic Park and The Terminator. What we can definitely say though is all of these things owe their existence to Westworld.
That thought, long though it may seem, stopped pretty quickly once this film REALLY kicked off. We’ve ALL seen performances by Nic Cage where we have thought ‘now that’s something unusual’ but this performance hit the highest mark on the Owen Wilson WOW-ometer. His character has some form of mental diversity which keeps him relatively silent, set to a timer and probably more mechanical than the robots from the restaurant, which is possibly the point.
Weirdly, the accompanying cast are great support to our silent, but violent hero. Beth Grant, a character actor of the highest order whose IMDb reads like a list of every TV series of the past 20 years, but is probably best known as the dreadful Kitty Farmer from Donnie Darko gets a much deserved lead in this movie. Emily Tosta as Liv is probably a standout as well, as she shows probably far more intensity than the film deserves, and is easily the least caricature-like, unlike her friend group who just tick off the generic horror film checklist. I must admit to liking the character played by Caylee Cowan, truly a traditional horror bimbo of the highest order but I’ve followed the actor on Instagram for a while so it was nice to finally see her in a role, a small as it was.
Speaking of generic, it may have been on purpose and a parody of a lot of the Chuck-E-Cheese wannabe places in the US, but whilst the characters stood out from each other, but didn’t really have any sort of their own definition, and so were a little forgettable. I can honestly only name three of them right now after finishing the movie just a few hours ago.
Weirdly, this silent hero vs robot cartoon characters actually works. I can honestly say that when the movie finished, I immediately wanted to see what The Janitor’s next adventure would be, and I’m totally on board for a sequel.
Extras: Only trailers for Willy’s Wonderland, Bill and Ted Face the Music, Parasite, Guns Akimbo, and Upgrade.
WISIA: I think it might wear thin quite quickly, but right now I want to watch it again.
This film was reviewed using the Australian release Bluray.