REVIEW: Willy's Wonderland

Have you ever wondered what would happen if animatronics in a child's party establishment became possessed by murderers who killed themselves in a satanic ritual?  Of course you have.  All of us have, and it's something that keeps all of us awake at night as we ponder what the reality of that would look like.  Now, I can honestly say, you need to ponder no more.

Willy's Wonderland investigates that one idea that keeps humans across the globe in a constant state of mulling.  Nicolas Cage stars as The Janitor, a quiet rambler whose car drives over a spike strip on a country road.  To get it towed and repaired in a town where ATMs don't work and the auto repair shop only takes cash in advance, Cage agrees to have the cost covered if he spends a night cleaning Willy's Wonderland, a movie equivalent to Chuck E. Cheese.

What Cage doesn't know is that he is intended as a sacrifice to the animatronics that reside within.  Before he starts his shift, establishment owner Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz) gives him a Willy's Wonderland t-shirt and lets Cage know he is to take many breaks.  Cage does just that throughout the film.  He is a hard worker, but when the alarm on his watch sounds he stops, drinks an energy drink, and plays pinball.  No matter the situation, this is what he does.

The concept for this film is a lot of fun, but it is also one that doesn't feel like it would have legs to support a feature film run time and should have existed as a short.  Well, it turns out that it indeed was a short called Wally's Wonderland that came out in 2016 that was made by G.O. Parsons, who wrote the screenplay for Willy's Wonderland.  

Far out story concepts can sometimes best exist where the premise can be covered before the gimmicky nature starts to become tired and bore the audience.  Thankfully, Nicolas Cage is here to keep things interesting even though he never says a word in the entire film.  His presence is engaging, and as he battles the animatronics he is able to keep the viewer engaged.  The idea of him promptly stopping whenever it's break time is pulled off decently and keeps some humour flowing through the script.

Liv (Emily Tosta) is a local girl who knows about what takes place at Willy's Wonderland, and wants to rescue Cage before burning the building to the ground.  She is the adopted daughter of Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), and has a personal history with Willy's Wonderland.  With the help of her friends, she walks into the danger that Cage is dealing with as the murderous residents seek human blood and death.

A lot of praise needs to be given to the design and production of the evil animatronics.  They border on being child friendly and utterly creepy.  Some, like Knighty Knight (a goofy looking medieval knight), are comical when they attack, and others are just nightmare bait.  I was really impressed with the conceptualization and execution of all eight of these creepy killers, and production designer Molly Coffee did a wonderful job with the environment as a whole.

This is a very whacky film, and I don't think it is the kind of movie that will hold the interest of every viewer.  The run time is just shy of an hour and a half, and, even with Cage's great performance and a strong outing for Tosta, some of the scenes aren't able to keep up the energy.  However, if you are a big fan of Nicolas Cage, this is a film you will probably enjoy.

Directed by Kevin Lewis, this is a horror comedy that lives in the realm of many others that have a difficult time keeping its base concept propelling the movie forward.  A lot of the action sequences are fun, but some are a little too heavy into fast and chaotic editing.  There are falls and shortcomings with Willy's Wonderland, that much is undeniable.  It also has Nicolas Cage showing how he's able to make almost anything engaging and entertaining, and not even Knighty Knight can stop him from making this fun.

Rating - 3 out of 4 stars