'Willy's Wonderland' Somehow Makes Evil Animatronics Seem Boring Directed by Kevin Lewis
Starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant
Published Apr 24, 2021This is a deeply stupid movie. Under certain circumstances, that could be interpreted as the highest praise, but this is the sort of stupid that just ends up being tedious. Willy's Wonderland concerns Nicolas Cage's unnamed character, who is made to spend a night cleaning the titular off-brand Chuck E. Cheese, unaware that the animatronic animals are actually possessed by serial killers. It's a riff on Five Nights at Freddy's, more or less.
Now, doesn't that sound like a fun, deranged way to spend 90 minutes? Some of cinema's greatest moments have come from an unhinged Cage screaming nonsense. Putting that energy in a face off against a demonic robot lizard should be the easiest homer in the movies. And yet.
Cage's character says nothing, expresses nothing and has no character detail; what behaviour he does exhibit is inconsistent with everything else in this. So the movie falls back on the tried-and-true group of young-adult clichés who break into Willy's the same night in order to destroy it, as they're already aware of its horror-movie bona fides.
The main character from this group, played by Emily Tosta, isn't half bad. The rest of them are so dumb that prolonged exposure to their characters in real life might sand your own brain down to a nub. The prerequisite sex scene is always silly, sure, but the characters here decide to shtup despite knowing they're trapped in a building with robotic killers. For that sort of anger-inducing decision making, they deserve their fates.
To be fair, there are some small crumbs of joy to be had in the scenes of Cage wailing on the Wonderland denizens, yet there might be more montages of him cleaning the joint than what audiences want to see. It also makes you wonder why the whole town is so scared of these robots when one man is able to take them out largely with his fists.
On top of skimping on the Cage-on-creature action, the main attraction of the film, it also gets bogged down in overlong exposition flashbacks. This impotent combo just makes the movie feel dull and dreary, a cardinal sin for any film, let alone one with a premise like this.
Willy's Wonderland comes out on VOD on April 27. (VVS)