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Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

It’s your birthday and we want you to have fun.  That’s the ear worm that will stay with you for days after watching this movie.  Unfortunately, that’s all you’ll leave with.  The premise is a straightforward one.  Nic Cage, only ever referred to as the janitor, has a tyre blow out thanks to (according to the pick-up truck guy) some pesky kids stealing a police stinger.  Said pick-up guy can fix his car but at a cost.  With no internet in town cash is the only currency and they’re all out of cash machines.  The solution?  Spend the night cleaning Willy’s Wonderland and your car will be ready the next day.

I really wanted to like this movie, no, in-fact, I really wanted to love this movie.  I was ready to laugh out loud at the pure ridiculousness of the whole situation and be amazed by the various inventive ways people and machines can be offed.  And, let’s be honest, in a world of ball pits, arcade machines and dancing weasels the possibilities are endless.  But that just doesn’t come.  The joke is the setup.  Man has to fight satanic robotic toys.  That’s it and its barely enough to maintain a ninety-minute feature film.

I can only think this is a homage to the glory days of slasher flicks.  All the elements are there, loner/drifter, Feisty female teenager, sinister towns folk and complicit Sheriff.   Not a single character in this movie amounts to more than tired cliche that we haven’t seen before. The direction from Kevin Lewis has the stop start beat employed by every slasher director in the past and we even have the obligatory teenagers having sex will lead to death premise to boot.  All of them are just there to be used as bait and this would be fine if they were disposed of with increasing inventiveness as the movie progresses but they’re not, instead we are subjected to pretty much the same death scene on repeat multiple times and it soon wears thin. The same can also be said for the offing of the monsters, the janitor makes it all seem a little too easy and it makes you wonder how it has not been achieved by any of the other hapless contenders who stumbled into this nightmare before him.

Overall, what could and should have been a fun filled 90 mins of goofy horror is nothing more than a 3 min comedy sketch stretched out and repeated.  It is a Nic Cage paycheck movie and ordinarily this wouldn’t be a bad thing, it’s what we love about his choice of films.  He more than leans into that stereo type and more often than not we revel in the so bad its good trope, but on this occasion it just doesn’t work.  If you arrive expecting a Nic Cage performance cranked up to 11, like me, you’ll be disappointed.  We get glimpses, in fact the best scene is Nic Cage playing pinball being Nic cage, the problem is that is the one time he does it.  He has no dialogue and I mean no dialogue whatsoever, his only character development seems to be his staggering work ethic, his determination to take regular breaks and his addiction to Punch Pop (a fictional caffeine drink).  He is as equally disposable as the monsters he’s fighting.  I think the only reason I was routing for him to win was the hope we would see him go “full Nic Cage” on the pick-up truck guy.  Spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen

Verdict: 6/10, By all means sit back, grab a can of Punch pop and spend the night with Willy, just don’t expect to have as much fun as they want you to have.

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