WILLY’S WONDERLAND – Film Review

A quiet loner (Nicolas Cage) finds himself stranded in a remote town when his car breaks down. Unable to pay for the repairs he needs, he agrees to spend the night cleaning Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family fun center. But this wonderland has a dark secret that this “Janitor” is about to discover. He soon finds himself locked in an epic battle with possessed animatronic mascots that roam the halls. To survive, he must fight his way through each of them.

A lot of us out there love to make fun of Nicolas Cage movies, and honestly, it’s hard not to. The vast majority of his work is unintentionally hilarious, and it’s become sort of a known thing that if a movie stars Cage, it’s going to be funny, but probably not in the way that the director intended.

Of course, there are a few exceptions out there such as Mandy and Knowing – two genuinely terrific films where Cage is actually quite great. But that’s the thing. Those are exceptions to the rule.

But as bad and as ridiculous as his films are, it’s a blast to watch him freak out in nearly everything he is in. We all love to watch these new Cage movies and wait for the inevitable “Nicolas Cage freakout moment” such as the amazing “Not the bees” scene from 2006’s The Wicker Man and, honestly, the entire Vampire’s Kiss movie.

So I was looking forward to his new project Willy’s Wonderland for that reason alone. It has Cage going up against evil animatronic robots. That’s destined to be filled to the brim with hilarity, right?

Courtesy of Screen Media Films

Plus, I am a gigantic fan of the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. I’ve played every game in the franchise and I even own quite a bit of merchandise. The thing is though, is that this movie is literally a complete ripoff of Scott Cawthon’s popular video game series. There really isn’t even a slight change to the story.

At the end of the day, Willy’s Wonderland can’t even get points for originality, because it’s not original at all. In fact, I’m quite surprised that there hasn’t been some sort of lawsuit against this movie unless Cawthon gave the filmmakers the “OK” to make this film.

And despite how much I was looking forward to seeing this, the film is ultimately disappointingly boring. How can a movie with Nicolas Cage brutally murdering wise-cracking, evil robots be boring? Well, against all odds, Willy’s Wonderland unfortunately is.

The movie lets you know what type of character Cage’s “The Janitor” is right away. He doesn’t talk at all (literally) throughout the duration of the story, he keeps to himself, but whenever something gets in his way, he doesn’t mess around. He is skilled in fighting and is obviously designed to be the epitome of an action movie hero that doesn’t get damaged no matter what.

It felt like the filmmakers were trying way too hard to make a badass movie character, and while his character is undoubtedly fun to watch, I would have preferred to have gotten a character that actually had some depth behind him instead of just a one-note killing machine.

And don’t even get me started on how ugly and clinical this movie looks. The entire thing has a weird sort of yellow tint to it and it’s so visually dreary. It’s also the type of movie that suffers drastically from having a very noticeable low budget. A film like this should have had a Hollywood-style production value, but instead, we get this almost indie feeling action-horror that looks and feels cheap in every scene.

Everything here is incredibly cheesy too, and I’m honestly not too sure if that was the intent or not. But regardless, it is. A lot of the dialogue here feels as if it were written by a group of children or something.

Another way you can tell that the writer of this film is probably quite inexperienced is because it’s absolutely littered with exposition. I cannot even tell you how many scenes there are sprinkled throughout in which a character goes into a two to three-minute-long monologue about the backstory of the Willy’s Wonderland restaurant and its haunting past.

To be curt, there were only two things about this film that I actually enjoyed. For one – Nicolas Cage. Sadly, we don’t get those trademark Nicolas Cage freakout moments here, but he was certainly fun to watch, even if his character was bland. It’s clear that he actually had a ton of fun working on this film. And the second thing I enjoyed was some of the Cage versus animatronic fight scenes. The first one in the opening was incredibly corny and suffered from some genuinely awful choreography, but a lot of the other ones actually weren’t too bad.

I’m just crossing my fingers that the upcoming live-action film adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s doesn’t turn out like this film. Many fans of that franchise are hungry for something similar before they get their hands on the real deal, and so they may be looking around for a film that’s similar for the time being. And so while yes, Willy’s Wonderland is quite similar, it doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Overall Grade: D+

MPAA Rating: R

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kedlec, Christian Del Grosso, Caylee Cowan, Terayle Hill, Jonathan Mercedes, David Sheftell, Beth Grant

Directed by: Kevin Lewis

Distributed by: Screen Media Films

Release Date: February 12, 2021

Running Time: 88 minutes

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