Review: ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

Nicolas Cage Is A Silent Assassin Of Evil Animatronic Puppets

Nicolas Cage vs. evil animatronic monsters? The idea practically writes itself, and thankfully for Willy’s Wonderland it appears that no script got in the way of just letting Cage do what his fans want him to do, which is slaughter puppets mercilessly and look cool while doing it.

The likelihood is you already know if Willy’s Wonderland is for you. If the initial premise sounds like some bullshit, then move along. However, if it sounds like the adrenaline shot of Cage you were hoping for, then by all means check-in. Cage is utterly wordless throughout the film as a soda pop-loving, pinball-obsessed drifter, who arrives into a small town in his boss muscle car, only to get held up by flat tires. To pay off the exorbitant debt, he gets swindled by a Boss Hog-esque businessman to spend the night cleaning up Willy’s Wonderland, a family entertainment venue/arcade in the mold of Chuck E. Cheese. Little does the newly-annointed Janitor know that this town has made a satanic pact with the animatronic Weasel and his cohorts that reside inside.

It isn’t long before the Janitor is attacked by one of the creatures, and unphased he rips the poor puppet apart. Cage grimly proceeds to fight for his life, and director Kevin Lewis’ action shots get a little repetitive. Gore runs thick, and you can see the budget straining as the film moves along. However, the film comes alive in the details. While we know precious little about Cage’s drifter, he’s a dutiful, even meticulous employee, and he never misses his break time, not even when engaged in a life or death fight with a giant weasel, a devilish fairy, or a knight with an intimidatingly-large sword. Seriously, watching Cage mop up the place after a particularly ghoulish kill is strangely soothing.

Joining in this ruckus are always-spooky character actress Beth Grant (seriously, is she ever not creepy??) as the town’s local sheriff and enabler of Willy’s vicious appetites. There’s also Emily Tosta as Liv, a woman who seeks to burn Willy’s Wonderland down to the ground. There are, naturally, a group of rambunctions just-asking-for-it teens who get slaughtered to raise the modest body count.

Willy’s Wonderland doesn’t aspire to much, and doesn’t achieve much other than to be a vehicle for Cage’s specific brand of madness, which those who have been tormented by the spectres of Chuck E. Cheese and Showbiz Pizza can indulge in.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Willy's Wonderland
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.