Drop What You’re Doing and Watch ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

I didn’t know watching Nicolas Cage kill an animatronic gorilla with a plunger was on my bucket list, but after watching Willy’s Wonderland unfold before me, I can confidently say that it was. Cage is the undisputed star of the show, hacking his way through creepy, robotic figures without a care in the world. His character, known only as ‘The Janitor,’ is completely mute and seemingly unphased by the carnage happening around him.

The Janitor finds himself stranded in a small town, made to clean the abandoned Willy’s Wonderland site in return for getting his car fixed. The Wonderland is a family amusement park that has long been closed, and the animatronic characters come to life to feast on the flesh of those left inside the building after dark. Joining The Janitor in his fight for survival are a group of teens led by Liv (Emily Tosta), the Sheriff’s daughter. They are aware of what goes on inside Willy’s and endeavour to help, but end up stuck inside, at the robots’ mercy.

From the get-go Cage gives a stellar performance. Throughout the film, he never utters a single word, but that doesn’t matter. If anything, he fuels the entire narrative just with his physical performance. He’s a deadly assassin, calm and collected at all times except when the need to batter a robotic animal arises. The Janitor’s fight scenes are absolutely exhilarating, simply because he is so resourceful. The fact that he can turn the most mundane items into a lethal weapon (and when all else fails, use his face, his fists, and his thighs), makes him seem invincible.

Once the fine mist of blood and oil in the air has cleared, The Janitor goes right back to acting completely stoic. This is where Cage excels at delivering brilliant moments of comedy. The Janitor’s idiosyncrasies include a continued devotion to his cleaning job, despite the mortal danger he faces, as well as taking meticulously timed breaks even at the most inopportune moments. Watching him go about his business as though absolutely nothing has happened is quite frankly hilarious. Cage does well to keep a straight face, and the result is an amazingly fun and amusing performance.

The only aspect of Willy’s Wonderland that it’s easy to be critical of is the writing. The film includes an assortment of familiar horror tropes and becomes easily predictable. Liv’s friends are also incredibly undeveloped and used largely as cannon fodder. The saving grace is that the film clearly knows that it’s presenting something derivative. It is more concerned with keeping the attention on Cage, and having fun with the bloodiness of the fight scenes, than it is with being original or complex.

One part of the writing that is refreshing is the fact that The Janitor has no past. He doesn’t speak, so he doesn’t tell us anything about himself. Usually, this would be frustrating or hamper a film because of the lack of character development. But with Willy’s Wonderland it really doesn’t matter. The Janitor is simply a man who exists in the moment, clobbering macabre robots, then retreating to play pinball and down endless cans of energy drink. It’s probable that only Nicolas Cage could make such a strange, unexplained character so interesting, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film is just pure, engrossing entertainment.

With buckets of fun, badassery, and blood, Willy’s Wonderland is the ideal film to immerse yourself in.

Willy’s Wonderland is available to rent now on digital platforms.

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