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Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

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SYNOPSIS:

A quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Willy’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics. Fists fly, kicks land, titans clash — and only one side will make it out alive.

REVIEW:

Ted Nugent used to do a little routine during his live shows. He would ask if there were people at his concert who wanted to get mellow. After talking about it for a moment or two, he would yell, “If anybody wants to get mellow, you can turn around and get the f— outta here!”

That little comment should have played over the opening shot of “Willy’s Wonderland”. Would have summed up the film’s attitude in one sentence as well as providing a lead-in for a house-rattling rock tune to boost the adrenaline of the viewers.

“Willy’s Wonderland” begins with the “It’s Your Birthday” tune you heard in the trailer, so that tune is tattooed into your brain from the first flickering image of the film. A fast set up indicating the horrors within the titular establishment later, and we arrive at the reason we are all here.

Nicholas Cage.

Our nameless and wordless hero would most likely be roaring along on a decked-out chopper if this was set in the Sixties. He Is that spirit which yearns to be free, even encased in a rumbling muscle car roaming the less-beaten paths and roadways. The world is his to enjoy.

Until he runs over a set of road spikes some jackass left in the middle of the road. He eyes the spikes with obvious suspicion as he cracks open a can of energy drink while he waits. On cue, a tow truck appears, offering to haul him to the local garage.

Cage’s character silently watches as he is manipulated into working overnight to clean a local, down-on-its-luck entertainment center for kids and their families in return for the repairs on his vehicle.

Decked out in a Willy’s Wonderland shirt, our hero cracks another energy drink and begins cleaning with an almost maniacal obsessiveness. Everything is fine until he turns to find one of the robotic critters from the stage ready to attack.

The war is on.

There are two primary reasons “Willy’s Wonderland” is on your cinematic radar, most likely.

First, the film gives a passing nod to the fans of the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (FNAF). Actually, if you read the description for the FNAF movie at IMDb, you notice a striking similarity:

“Based on the popular horror video game, a man starts a job working as a night watch security guard at the restaurant Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, where he discovers the animatronics move at night and will kill anyone they see.”

Late night worker. Check. Restaurant with animatronics creatures. Check. Killing. Check.

FNAF is missing the important part – NICHOLAS “FREAKING” CAGE!!!

Mr. Cage is the other reason you want to see “Willy’s Wonderland”.  Who isn’t down with watching the most wonderfully wild actor going full badass freakazoid on homicidal cartoon characters? The audience gets plenty of it, sandwiched between well-intentioned young folks getting slaughtered wherever Nick Cage ain’t.

At 57, Nicholas Cage manages a low-level, and oddly silent, primal-scream role quite well. He has just enough haggardness to his face and stance that he is an Average-Joe figure shouting, “I ain’t getting younger, so I ain’t got time for this!” These damned creatures are keeping him from finishing his agreed upon task. That’s it. No muscle flexing nonsense. Take out the trash and take plenty of breaks, as instructed.

“Willy’s Wonderland” is wise enough to dole out their star in measured doses. The wrap-around story involving a group of corrupt and perverse people gaining control of an average American community and then enshrining their control so that the townspeople serve their twisted desires for all time has enough meat on its bones to actually spark some discussion, but the cast of young folks are just there for gruesome set pieces to drive home the fact that these cute, fuzzy critters are really sick killers who feed on fear.

Is “Willy’s Wonderland” everything you imagine it will be from the trailer? No. In fact, it is easy to see some fans being disappointed with the rather mindless repetition of Cage’s scenes. Better editing would have tightened up the non-Cage sequences. Cage’s “wildest” moments are playing pinball and doing a funky dance at the same time. Charming, but more reserved than most viewers would be expected.

Willy’s Wonderland” is worth checking out if you don’t have unreasonably high expectations going in. It’s fun to watch Nicholas Cage in most anything, plus he is helping out smaller filmmakers by agreeing to these productions. Gotta support a good guy like that, especially when he curb-stomps overly-cute fuzzballs.

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