Halfway through watching Willy’s Wonderland I started to feel like I’d walk this walk before with The Banana Splits Movie, which although it didn’t have the pull factor of Nicolas Cage did manage to capture the mayhem and obscurity of evil animatronics hunting down and killing victims in ruthless and bloody fashion.
On paper, Willy’s Wonderland sounds fantastic and in some cases appears to have resonated with some of its audience. The idea of Cage playing a socially silent recluse in the form of a janitor, who is wired to exact rage on these mechanical beings would be a filmmakers dream , but the inner turmoil that spills over into exaggerated mania and anarchy that we have borne witness to in previous outings such as Mandy or Color Out of Space are strangely absent here with Cage and Director Kevin Lewis choosing to play out a far more reserved figure in ‘The Janitor’ and as such, I personally found that I wasn’t able to connect with this character. It’s simply missing that humanitarianism, as if this detached persona is just as soulless as the eight animatronic characters that he goes head to head with in the abandoned entertainment center.
Before any of this unfolds however, we are first introduced to Cage’s janitor when his car breaks down in a rural town. With no cash to pay for it to be fixed, we’re presented with the old trope of paying off his dues through physical labour. In this case, to help clean up the afore-mentioned and titular entertainment diner. Unbeknownst to the Janitor however, Willy’s Wonderland is run by psychotic animatronics that are possessed by evil, satanic killers and the towns figureheads, Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), Tex (Ric Reitz), and mechanic Jed (Chris Warner) have made a pact with to lure in town drifters as a sacrifice to curb the excessive killing sprees around town.
Joining Cage in attempting to put a final end to these macabre deeds is wayward teen Liv (Emily Tosta) and her friends, the latter of which serve as fodder for Willy and his serial killer robots to dispatch.
There are too many tropes in the mix here from breaking down in a small town and possessed dolls/animatronics that there doesn’t feel like anything fresh or new on offer.
We could easily have had Cage as a Bruce Lee style of action flick in the vein of The Big Boss pitting him against a series of evil robotic killers, each with specialised skill of wielding death, and have him slowly work his way up to the ultimate killing machine in Willy. And with each level, have Cage slowly dial up the mania.
Instead though, we have a muddled and half-hearted attempt at having Cage flit from one scene to another with admittedly a sense of coolness but with nothing to emote from or to, ends up feeling listless.
- Saul Muerte