#REVIEW: “WILLY’S WONDERLAND”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
In order to get new wheels for his car, a nameless drifter must spend the night cleaning up the abandoned children’s party restaurant, Willy’s Wonderland. He cleans and pays no attention to the animatronic animals on stage initially – that is, until they start attacking him.
Oh and the nameless drifter is played by the immortal Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage. And he spends the entire Movie either silent, grunting or yelling while he gets soaked in blood constantly over the near 90-minute running time. If that does not sound like your idea of fun, then you might as well stop reading now. This one is not for you.
For everyone else, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a mixed bag that is every bit as chaotic as you expect it to be, for better or worse.
On one hand, the Film delivers on the promises of that wild description. Cage is in his most genuinely unhinged element and is very clearly having a blast fighting demonic animatronic animals in the most brutally violent ways possible. I am talking screen soaked in blood levels of viciousness. Rather curiously, he dials it back in a few extended moments to obsessively clean, chug over-caffeinated beverages and play pinball (in the most delirious way you imagine Nicolas Cage would play pinball obviously). His near silent performance is a testament to how commanding a presence he is on-screen, saying just enough without saying anything at all. While some may claim he is phoning it in here, anyone who has been paying attention to his mastery of gritty low budget genre work like this will know better. The way he can manically jump between quiet calm and full-blown insanity is a thing of beauty, and this is yet another vintage Cage performance that needs to be seen to be believed.
On the other hand however, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a bit of an over- stylized mess. It is overly dank and gritty to a fault, with some scenes that are too hard to see and others obstructed by obnoxious lens flare. Worse, a good chunk of the Film is shot with Dutch Angles, which becomes downright infuriating to watch when they are used so often. The Script is light, and some of the explanations are overdone. The animatronic work is acceptable for the most part, though it does look every bit as low-budget as it possibly can. I just wonder why the Filmmakers did not stick with it the entire time, because whenever the Film veers into CGI territory, it looks like trashy pre-viz work that they were not able to complete on time. I admire how the Film wears its grindhouse influences on its sleeve (not to mention what it shamelessly lifts from the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series), but feel like certain elements could have been refined so much better.
While Emily Tosta does well for herself and Character Actress Beth Grant wisely avoids going fully over-the-top, the rest of the Cast seem to be either going through the motions or standing in awe of the intensity Cage brings to WILLY’S WONDERLAND. It is not a great film by any means and has more than a few issues under the hood. But when it is just letting Cage off the leash to beat the living hell out of animatronic animals, it delivers in ways that will leave genre fans smiling and giggling with glee.
VVS Films release WILLY’S WONDERLAND digitally Tuesday, April 13, 2021 and on-demand Tuesday April 27, 2021.