• Nate Adams

Review: Nicolas Cage battles satanic animatronics in outrageously zany 'Willy's Wonderland'


Courtesy of Screen Media

Whether it’s herding alpacas through a trippy H.P. Lovecraft adaptation or thrashing supernatural samurai in the ghostlands, Nicolas Cage doesn’t make the same movie twice. His unhinged madness and unpredictability are a brand unto itself and when you see his name top billed in Kevin Lewis’ “Willy’s Wonderland,” a film about demonic animatronics feasting on human flesh, it only works because Cage is the one brave enough to take them on. Guaranteed to satisfy anyone who stayed up late playing “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (guilty as charged)“Willy’s Wonderland” is pure junk food cinema with all the fixings.


G.O. Parsons' script cooks up plenty of chaos for Cage to untangle as he plays “The Janitor,” a lowly drifter whose car broke down in Harrisville, an industrial town once known for the popular children’s attraction: Willie’s Wonderland. The Chuck E. Cheese style venue (complete with the world’s creepiest birthday song) was condemned by the local police years ago following a string of missing children reports. The Janitor is caught in a peculiar situation of not having cash to fix his car (Harrisville has zero ATM’s and I doubt they know how Venmo works) and is offered an ultimatum: clean the abandoned Willy’s Wonderland overnight and have all vehicle repairs paid for (why ask questions when the answers are meaningless!)


And so The Janitor (yes that is his credited name) begins rigorously cleaning - and chugging “Punch” colas - until Tito The Turtle, Cammy the Chameleon, Arty the Alligator, Gus the Gorilla and Ozzie the Ostrich spring to life looking for more than clean dining rooms. The specifics of how these characters - which look like the mascots of your earliest nightmares with bulgy eyes, ruffled fur, and faded plastic décor - have managed their sentience won’t be spoiled here (though it could only make sense in this type of film) but Cage, who doesn’t mutter one syllable for all 88 sadistic minutes, takes them on without flinching. Several takedowns with a toilet plunger, and Cage’s stone cold knee caps prove gitty, hypercaffeinated highlights. Again, don’t ask questions.


“Willy’s Wonderland” does stall with the introduction of a teenage squad who break in to help The Janitor fend off the mascots during the climax, however their real purpose as bodies to be axed in grotesque, often satisfying methods won’t be lost on anyone with a brain. Speaking of brains, check yours at the door or else the film’s zany sense of humor and grungy B-movie mayhem will eat away at your sanity.


Grade: B


WILLIE’S WONDERLAND opens in select theaters and will be available digitally and on-demand Friday, February 12th.