Review: WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a Nicolas Cage Flick Completely Void of Anything to Recommend

By: Anthony Francis

“Willy’s Wonderland”. Moments of pure terror as frightening as anything from “The Exorcist”, creature designs as brilliant as anything Stan Winston ever created, and actions scenes as exciting as the best fight scenes from “The Warriors” this is one excellent… okay, of course I am completely kidding. 

To be fair, I was hoping this film would be goofy fun. If the right filmmaker full of inventive ideas was involved, “Willy’s Wonderland” could have been a fun, tongue-in-cheek, Joe Dante-esque, throwback to the wild B-movie genre films of the 1980s.

But we should never review the film that could have been so we must deal with the ridiculous mess of a film we have before us.

“Willy’s Wonderland” fails on every level. Every. Single. Level.

In a small Nebraska town, there is a old, Chuck E. Cheese-type pizza joint that holds pure evil.

Long ago, killers performed a Satanic ritual that transferred their souls into the animatronic characters that inhabited the pizza place.

Ridiculous? Of course it is! However, many fun genre films are born out of silly ideas. (Side bar- how the makers of the popular video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s” have not sued the makers of this film for plagiarism is beyond me. This film steals almost every plot point of the game.)

After his car gets damaged, Cage’s character (known only as “The Janitor”) makes a deal to work overnight in Willy’s Wonderland in trade for getting his car fixed.

What he doesn’t know (or does he? His character seems awfully prepared and unfazed. It is never made clear.) is that inside, the pizza joint’s characters come alive and eat humans. 

Juiced up on energy drinks named “Punch” and pinball games (the reason for this is never explained), The Janitor fights each character one by one. It is a night and fight to the death.

 A group of local teens led by Liv (Emily Tota) gets caught up in the madness as they try and fail to burn the place down. 

Liv is the charge of the local sheriff (Beth Grant) who is keeping a secret of her own.

All of this leads to absolutely nothing, as director Kevin Lewis slugs through his own film without caring to craft any style or bring excitement to G. O. Parsons’ screenplay. Scene by scene you can feel the director’s disinterest. 

The action scenes could have been bloody fun. There are many of them and they come fast and furious but do nothing to catch our interest. As it stands, they start and end abruptly with bad fight choreography and choppy camerawork.

With every film I see, I try to find something positive to say, even if I am giving a negative review. Sadly, this is not the case this time. I kept waiting for something creative that never came.

Even watching Nic Cage could not help in this one. Even in his worst films and strangest choices the actor is always fun to watch. Lest we forget, he has it in him to do great work. His wild man antics can be quite excellent (see MANDY!). For this film, Cage is purposely without dialogue and his character is written as a silent badasswho can tear through the demonic characters with bloody skill.

Stuck within batshit Action Movie, straight-to-video land, Cage occasionally gives us something special, be it a wild performance or an exciting Action film. 

This time, Cage walks a fine line of being the silent hero and looking massively bored and/or embarrassed to be in this film. By film’s end, I am guessing it was a bit of both.

I will never give up on Nicolas Cage. He has always been one of our most exciting actors and while his film choices are not what they used to be (be it tax issues or just easy paydays), the actor is still fun to watch. Except for this film. 

“Willy’s Wonderland” holds absolutely nothing of interest and is completely void of anything to recommend it.

About The Author: A long-time film connoisseur and son to a father who ran a movie theater, Anthony Francis rightfully grew up to be a journalist, filmmaker, writer, and film reviewer. His latest reviews/interviews/articles can be found at screencomment.com

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