Willy’s Wonderland: Another Review. by Alif Majeed.
As an actor, Nicolas Cage had an unprecedented run in his peak 90s. It is a decade where he went from the youthful edginess of the early ’90s to prestige movie Oscar winner to bonafide action star to finally going full steam into his crazy phase towards the later part of the decade.
It might feel like a sad state that he got himself into, but it looks like he is enjoying this part of his career. He reminds you of that old relative of yours who finally realized rather gleefully that they do not need to hesitate for a second to shoot their mouth because they are beyond reprehension.
He has also got into a nice groove where he seems to do ten turkeys back to back and then gets out a solid movie. The makers of Willy’s Wonderland (including producer Nicolas Cage himself) must be hoping that it would turn into that one solid film and not the cold turkeys before it.
Cage plays a mysterious drifter forced to clean the titular joint for a single night to get his damaged car repaired. Things are not as simple as it seems, as his character named The Janitor soon figures out that he is in the company of a bunch of demonic possessed animatronic dolls, all baying for his blood which would make it quite an exciting night out for him.
The one movie that immediately came to my mind as a reference for Willy’s Wonderland was Donald Coscarelli’s charming B-Movie sendup, Bubba Ho Tep, with Bruce Campbell playing an aged Elvis, fighting ancient mummies in a retirement home. It also comes closer to two movies from the peak time Cages 90s that perfectly emulated the b-movies of yore, Evil Dead 3 (with its similar Cage-level crazed Bruce Campbell, the closest who comes as a kindred spirit to Sir Cage) and From Dusk till Dawn (with satanic ritual pacts and the ride into the sunset after everything is over).
While the former movie had Sam Raimi and the latter had Robert Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino, Willy’s Wonderland has. Nicolas Cage. Or that seems to be what the movie wants you to believe. But as if Kevin Lewis, the director, quickly realized, that might not be enough. The film then quickly adds five teenagers who act as stereotypical lambs for slaughter to make things better while also saving the Janitor, but end up doing more damage by just being there.
Using the famous Rorschach line to describe The Janitor as not being trapped with the monsters, but that they are trapped with him sounds shoehorned and pretty bland when a character utters it. But Nicolas Cage owns that line the way he deals with those demonic creatures, as we have got used to seeing him do by now.
The thing with Willy’s Wonderland is that it only feels like an utterly insane gonzo piece of entertainment in parts. A lot of credit for it goes to the man himself. And that causes a problem. Take out Cage from the equation and what you get is a typical B-Movie that is really stretching itself and trying too hard.
But it does have Cage, who can give playing on a pinball table his personal crazed orgasmic touch (precisely what he does in the movie) and sweep away a lot of its shortcomings. That he barely talks in the entire film as they wisely choose not to give him any lines. (as if trying to prove a point, maybe that he can pull the bat shit craziness without uttering a single word).
It might not be Mandy but this unusual Meet the Feebles meets Westworld universe that the makers created, a pastiche of multiple movies, will provide a lot of joy to its core target audience. If you do not take it too seriously, it is destined to end up being a cult favorite, even though a lot of it can also be chalked up to hyperbolic love.
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