The Willoughbys Movie Review: A wacky, whimsical tale of unfortunate events
Four abused, underfed, and oppressed children come up with a plan to kill their parents in a surprisingly clean and fun-filled kids film with almost a joke a minute
Four abused, underfed, and oppressed children come up with a plan to kill their parents as they believe that becoming orphans is a better life choice than rotting in the prison called 'home'. Not so fast, The Willoughbys isn't an R-rated revenge thriller. It is actually a clean and fun-filled kids film with almost a joke a minute. This is what elevates the Netflix film above the ordinary 'love always wins' variety of animated films.
Director: Kris Pearn
Cast: Will Forte, Martin Short, Alessia Cara, Jane Krakowski
Streaming on: Netflix
The wacky elements in The Willoughbys are endless. Rainbows in this world end in a candy factory, run by a seven-foot mascot named Commander Melanoff, who everyone believes is just a fiction. And when this Commander Melanoff feeds his newly adopted toddler sweets, the Willoughbys decide to call him 'Sugar Daddy'. The adults watching can understand the hidden innuendo and have a hearty laugh, while naive kids can remain uncorrupted. There is something for everyone in almost every scene. If you are someone who has had a not-so-good childhood and still suffer from the traumas of it, the film will give you hope and ask the fighter in you to stay strong. If you're a Friends and/or Crazy Mohan fan, the hilarious word plays will keep you hooked.
Though The Willoughbys is an adaptation of Lois Lowry's novel of the same name, the film, in many ways, feels like an ode to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, starring the irreplaceable Jim Carry. It even has a similar introductory narration, which sarcastically urges the audience to quit the film right away if they are looking forward to seeing a pleasant tale with a happy ending. Interestingly, the Willoughbys' story is not narrated by one of the characters. In fact, the narrator here isn't even a person — it's a cat! For a considerable period of the runtime, we get to see the kid's world through the perspective of this cat (voiced by Ricky Gervais). And when things go out of hand and the tale almost slips into dark territory, Mr Cat channels his inner Kushi SJ Suryah and does what a narrator mustn't — breaks into the story to steer it off course.
I believe kids who grow up watching The Willoughbys will be more willing to embrace differences, and understand that what they do matters more than where they are born. Despite being a kids film, director Kris Pearn doesn't flinch from showing the toxic side of the pressure caused due to lineage and full points for his representation of queer and black people. The kids in this universe don't make gay jokes when they see same-sex couples and though we see an ample number of black characters, none of them is shown as a crook.
At a time when we keep hearing of people struggling to co-exist with their own families during the coronavirus lockdown, The Willoughbys reminds us of the goodness of holding on to our loved ones, the importance of respecting their differences, and the joys of having an imperfectly perfect family. The film couldn't have been released at a better time.