Among everything else that happened last year, it was also the start of the 90s kids entering their 30s. With most filmmakers finding their place in the industry around this age, it also begins a nostalgic look at their youth, like much of what we are seeing with the 80s trend this past decade. A unique experience that many kids of the 90s had, that will most likely be claimed by the pandemic like so many other businesses, is Chuck E Cheese. While in hindsight it’s easy to see that these animatronics were unsettling and creepy Willy’s Wonderland fully realizes the dangers and horror these robots could wreak is set loose.
A mysterious stranger has his tires blow out near a small town in the middle of nowhere and is told by the mechanic that he can have it fixed the next day but the man has to pay in cash. While the man only has a credit card on him the mechanic decides to make a deal. In the man spends the night at the local pizzeria, cleaning it up and getting it ready to reopen soon, he will consider the car work paid off. In silent agreement, the man begins to clean up the restaurant, all the while unaware that the animatronics are watching, and they’re hungry.
There were many times throughout this movie that it was very comparable to watching a “lets play” of a videogame. Nicholas Cage’s character will be simply cleaning, doing his janitorial duties when suddenly he will have to fight off a bloodthirsty animatronic, where afterward he would take his break, rinse and repeat. While it sounds like this could get old, the way Willy’s Wonderland mixes up this formula is both captivating and hilarious. Everything with Cage‘s character is wonderfully fun, which can be quite surprising when you realize how much of a Mary Sue he is.
What is far less interesting in the film is the younger characters acting alongside Cage‘s character, who you could simply call “the kids”. A group of teenagers hell-bent on destroying Willy’s Wonderland and all of the evil animatronics inside lack any real characterization to make them interesting and are simply fodder to be dispatched. Never have I seen more expendable characters and I’m a personal fan of slasher films in particular. Every time they are on screen the film loses its momentum noticeable, which is disappointing with how fast this movie can get.
A few months ago a group of friends and I watched The Banana Splits Movie and were completely floored that it was as good as it was. Now having watched Willy’s Wonderland I still have an appreciation for the Splits but this film is completely next level. A movie with a silent Nicholas Cage fighting a whole gang of killer pizzeria animatronics should not be this good, and at times it is lacking, but it’s a whole hell of a lot of fun and in my mind, that’s all it had to be.
8 out of 10