Willy’s Wonderland is a fun little film that offers up a heavy helping of chaos and self-aware comedy. The feature also let’s Nic Cage add yet another memorable performance to his filmography, and while it probably isn’t going to win any awards, Willy’s Wonderland is entertaining enough that I’d say it’s worth a watch for fans of Cage’s stranger stuff.
Cage plays a nameless, less-than-talkative man who’s tricked into paying off his car repairs after an “accident” by spending the night cleaning a run-down family restaurant/arcade called “Willy’s Wonderland,” essentially a Chuck E. Cheese. It only gets weirder from there, because unbeknownst to the newly minted janitor, the animatronic animals come to life at night, killing those trapped inside. A group of teenagers try to break into Willy’s Wonderland in an attempt to save the unwitting “victim,” but are shocked to discover that he’s more than capable of destroying mechanical ostriches and alligators.
The film is quite short, barely breaking 80 minutes before the credits roll, so it gets to the nitty gritty pretty quickly. Once the premise is established, carnage ensues pretty frequently, and I was chuckling or laughing out loud every couple of minutes. A lot of that is due to the janitor’s demeanor, as he has only two settings: oddly docile and crazed killer. If that isn’t the kind of role the Ghost Rider star is perfect for, I don’t know what is. The definite highlights of Willy’s Wonderland are the fights between the janitor and the mechanical monstrosities, which are all gleefully violent, super
bloody oily, and pretty damn funny.
The rest of the cast is serviceable, if mostly unremarkable, with Emily Tosta’s Liv being the closest thing to a main character aside from the janitor in Willy’s Wonderland. Tosta does have her moments, and is at the center of most of the movie’s scariest sequences, but she’s ultimately, unsurprisingly overshadowed by Cage and the bloodthirsty robots. The rest of the supporting cast tend to make staggeringly stupid decisions, which allows them to become fodder for Willy and his ferocious friends. That, and each of the teens fitting into a specific, cliched archetype, all lend to the film’s intentionally cheesy vibe. While I’d hold this lack of character depth against most movies, it’s hard to do here when it’s clear that all Willy’s Wonderland wants to do is show off Nic Cage killing murderous machines. It’s kinda the same reason why I’m never really bothered by lackluster humans in the Godzilla movies if the monsters themselves are enjoyable enough.
With all said and done, Willy’s Wonderland is exactly what I was expecting: a dumb-fun horror comedy that lets Nic Cage go to town on a group of evil Chuck E. Cheese knock-offs, no more, no less. If that sounds like a fun time to you, then I’d give it a watch.