Willy’s Wonderland Review: Five nights at Cage’s

When we first heard about the announcement of Willy’s Wonderland, we already knew what it was going to be. “What would Five Nights At Freddy’s be like if they were going up against a batshit crazy Nicolas Cage?” And, well, now that the movie’s actually here, we can confirm that’s pretty much what you get. But that’s not the worst thing.

Directed by Kevin Lewis, this low-budget horror/comedy has more going for it than you might expect. But the thing that helps here is that you set said expectations low. If you’re wondering if Willy’s Wonderland is on the same level as the insanely nuts Mandy, well, it’s not. Not even close. But if you accept the premise and came to see Cage go nuts on a horde of animatronic terrors, then you’ve come to the right place.

Cage portrays “The Janitor,” a guy who waltzes into town looking all bad ass. He runs into the town of Hayesville just as his black Chevy runs into car trouble. It turns out to be rather costly, and he doesn’t have an overwhelming bank account to take care of the damage.

It’s here that the owner of a local establishment called Willy’s Wonderland strikes a deal with the Janitor. If he can clean up the place, he’ll have his car fixed and ready to roll in the morning. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because, well, it is.

We soon learn that Willy’s Wonderland was a children’s party establishment with animatronic creatures to entertain them, a la Chuck E. Cheese in a way. But there are some dark secrets that forced its closure, and the Janitor is about to meet them head-on. And he’s not alone, as some typical teen characters pop in, just to give Willy and his buddies some targets in which to pile up the body count.

The owner doesn’t quite fill in all the details to Cage’s character about his true purpose, but he finds out soon enough – and that’s when the carnage kicks in. See, The Janitor is a good clean-up man, but in more ways than you might expect. A sequence where he makes short work of an ostrich that threatens to eat his face gives you an idea of what you’re in for.

Plot-wise, Willy’s Wonderland isn’t the strongest. The teenagers are typically written and literally asking for death at one point; and there are some holes in the tale when it comes to why the place ended up the way it did. And there are some gaps of logic, especially closer to the end.

But there’s also a whole lot of merit here. The carnage, as we mentioned, is a thing of beauty, as Cage and company get covered in all sorts of oil and other fluids trying to take apart these interesting terrors. And the animatronic creatures themselves are a hoot, from the trash-talking ostrich to a knight with a Muppet-like face to Willy himself, who could honestly give Freddy a run for his money.

There’s also an interesting kinship between Cage and Liv (Emily Tosta), a teenager that really gets to see how he works. It’s fun to see them both work together to survive the night – if they can – while the others, well, lack heavily in character.

Willy’s Wonderland isn’t the smoothest filmmaking experience, between its jagged story and occasional pulpy filmmaking style. But it’s good fun – and a majority of that lies with Cage. He’s eating this role up like it’s a New York pizza covered in pepperoni and sausage, even jiving out with something as simple as a break with a pinball machine or guzzling down a drink. And, yeah, it’s cool to see him take down most of the animatronic threats like a crazy bad-ass would.

Again, it really comes down to expectations. If you walk into this expecting the legendary work of Nicolas Cage, well, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a fun horror fest where he goes nuts a majority of the time – even without muttering much in terms of dialogue – then you’ll have a field day in this Wonderland.

RATING: 7.5 (out of 10)

Not the greatest of Cage’s work, but Willy’s Wonderland is a sight to behold for fans of schlocky horror comedy.

DVS Movie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

The Sonic the Hedgehog film manages to avoid the pitfalls of failed video game movies by sticking to the source material.

Video game adaptations of movies are a mixed bag; you generally expect it to closely follow the source material. There have been successful video game movies such as Tomb Raider and Detective Pikachu and flops such as Assassin’s Creed and Super Mario Bros. The Super Mario Bros. adaptation was so bad, Bob Hoskins (who played Mario) said that it was not only the worst job he’s ever done but also called it his biggest disappointment and something that he would edit out of his past in a 2007 interview. Knowing the track record of video game films, would Sonic the Hedgehog suffer the same fate as their Nintendo-based plumber rivals?

Most classic Sonic the Hedgehog media is memorable; could the live-action film create new memories?

I enjoyed watching Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog as a kid; the TV show cast Jaleel White as the voice of Sonic (he would also voice Steve Urkel in the successful African-American sitcom Family Matters) and also played Sonic games fervently in my childhood. I even was Sonic for Halloween, so this was sort of a homecoming for me after Sega significantly chucked the franchise down the toilet in the new millennium. After the fall of Sega as a console developer, the company relegated him to terrible video games on the Nintendo Gamecube, Xbox, and Xbox 360, as well as token appearances on other Nintendo consoles.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Thankfully, Paramount Pictures had bought the film rights to the franchise in 2017 and a cast of James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, and 90s comedy superstar Jim Carrey had joined the cast by 2018. The film was scheduled for a November 2019 release, but fans were upset about the Sonic design. The producers listened, and they pushed the film back to a February 14, 2020 release.

Jim Carrey turns in one of his finest performances in years.

The film avoided a major pitfall by sticking to its source material. The trailer prominently featured the Green Hill Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. While Tom Wachowski (James Marden) provides straight-man relief for Sonic’s (Ben Schwartz) 500-miles-a-minute speech patterns, the real star of the movie was Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey). The United States government begrudgingly employs Dr. Robotnik to investigate Sonic’s appearance, which sets off the events of the film.

Sonic the Hedgehog Dr. Robotnik

His performance during the movie reminded me a lot of the Jim Carrey of old, who made audiences double over in movies such as Ace Ventura and Liar Liar, harkening back to his roots in physical and slapstick comedy and doing what he does best: playing over-the-top, exaggerated characters. I would go as far as to say that Carrey enhanced the role of Dr. Robotnik, who portrayed a cartoon villain in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog series. Carrey used his experience as someone who portrayed those over-the-top and exaggerated characters and seamlessly placed it into the Dr. Robotnik character like he never missed a beat.

Although Sonic made way too many pop culture references during the film, his performance brings together the Sonic fans of old (such as myself) and younger audiences who may have never heard of him or heard about him from their parents. The film rides the wave of 90s nostalgia and revivals that have been a part of Hollywood for the past five or so years and surfs it almost perfectly from start to finish. The synchronization of the live-action and cartoon elements of the film cannot be ignored either. We hope this kicks off a long string of live-action Sonic movies, as this may be the blueprint that video game movies need to succeed.

Grade: A