‘Willy’s Wonderland’ Review — Aggressively Stupid
Sometimes, people make great movies. Other times, people ask themselves, “What would you get if you mixed Con Air with Five Nights at Freddy’s?” And then we get this.
From director Kevin Lewis comes Willy’s Wonderland, an action horror comedy about a man (Nicolas Cage) who is hired to clean the now-closed Willy’s Wonderland children’s attraction filled with animatronic mascots. However, as the night goes on, the animatronics come to life and attack the janitor, and he must fight his way through the night.
It can be difficult to review a movie as aggressively stupid as this. It’s even more difficult to review a film as knowingly stupid and self-aware as this. With a premise like this, nobody expects high art, and this film offers some of the lowest art to be released in recent memory — art, nevertheless.
As mentioned before, this film stars Academy Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage in a role where he punches animatronic mascots without saying a single word. Those who have grown to love the roles where Cage freaks out and screams á la Vampire’s Kiss and Face/Off may find themselves disappointed that his character in this movie is an unnamed mute.
The movie works purely for the entertainment value in watching Oscar-winning thespian Nicolas Cage wage full-on war with a team of flamboyant serial killer animals. It’s wickedly fun in a unique way, and you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
What makes parts of this movie so enjoyable is how unperturbed the Janitor is by the situation. While many contained horror flicks with premises like this have a mortified hero who must summon the courage to survive and fight back, the Janitor visibly could not care less that he is being attacked.
The Janitor is an invincible hero in this movie, smashing the shit out of evil animatronics left and right. He also has a watch that beeps and lets him know when to crack open an energy drink and play an arcade game. This running gag isn’t as funny as the movie thinks it is, and that is as far as the characterization goes.
At times, the Janitor feels as if he bears many similarities to Ryan Gosling’s character from Drive, as they are two silent, wandering souls with no name, prone to acts of bloody violence. The Driver seems like a template for the Janitor, but throw in a splash of Cage, and you have a pretty watchable character.
But it’s difficult to root for the Janitor because he is so indestructible that the action has very little tension. The fact that the Janitor isn’t remotely scared of a single thing in Willy’s Wonderland is both a strength and a weakness of the film, as he has nothing for audiences to connect with.
However, the Janitor is not the only character in the film. We have a set of teenage characters who also have no characterization and feel like archetypes from a ’90s slasher. Their dialogue can feel very cliché and scripted, and none of their backstories are explored well enough at all.
The film also can’t shake its low-budget feel. With its contained location, shot setups, and endless series of tight close-ups and Dutch tilts, it’s evident that the equipment was a bit limited. A scene where the teenagers stand on the roof of the building is juxtaposed with a fake-looking sky and unrealistically bright lighting to the point where it looks very artificially lit.
It’s not quite as fun as it could be, either. The kills aren’t very creative, and we have a few heavy-handed scenes that function solely as exposition dumps. Nevertheless, the film isn’t trying to be believable. It knows what type of film it is and owns it. If you’re in the mood for horror movie trash with a lot of intense staring, this may be the movie for you.
And if not, you’ll be okay. But whatever you do, don’t take the night shift at your local Chuck-E-Cheese.