Sometimes mayhem is the way to go with a movie since offering too much exposition might not be the best idea. From the outset, Willy’s Wonderland looks like a ridiculous movie that could be written off as one of Nicolas Cage’s many performances that was bound to go straight to DVD and be forgotten. Still, after watching the movie, it’s easier to say that it’s one of the pleasant surprises that he’s been a part of in the last decade. Too many people make too big of a deal about how many movies he’s made due to his need to recoup the losses he incurred when he squandered his fortune, but taking a look at some of the performances he’s put up in recent years tends to remind a person that Cage is still a great actor. Some might want to disagree with this sentiment when looking at this movie, but the idea that less is more definitely makes this work in a way that saves this feature from being another movie that needs to be filed away in the archives.
There isn’t a lot to this movie when one looks at it, and that’s probably why it works.
There’s just enough exposition to make this movie fun since the story doesn’t delve that deeply into the drifter’s backstory, and eventually, he’s known as Janitor when his car breaks down in a small, out-of-the-way town, and he can’t pay for the repairs. The whole thing feels like a setup from the start since he does find the spike strip that caused his flat tire, and the mechanic doesn’t appear inclined to be that helpful. When the owner of a decrepit family theme restaurant offers to let him work off his debt by cleaning the place, the Janitor doesn’t make a fuss; he simply bags up his cans of soda or energy drink and prepares to do as he’s been tasked. There isn’t much background on Wally’s Wonderland right away, but that doesn’t appear to matter as the Janitor gets to work. There is a matter of the faded animatronic figures that stand on the main stage and how they begin to move when he’s not watching.
The first attack kicks off the fun of this movie.
Seriously, I mean that this movie is fun because it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. When Ozzie the Ostrich attacks the Janitor, the guy doesn’t bat an eye, but he does beat Ozzie to death with his mop, and then he cleans up the mess. It goes this way for a while, even when a group of young people attempts to get the Janitor out of his predicament. The fact that the Janitor doesn’t want to escape is interesting since he goes about cleaning the place and dealing with the murderous robots as each one turns violent and tries to kill him. It’s not surprising at all as the robots begin to murder the young folks, especially since two of them go off to have sex, which is a huge no-no in a horror movie. The others simply act in a manner that’s, well, kind of typical for those who are about to die in a gruesome manner.
The reason behind the possessed animatronic characters is simple and to the point.
With the revelation that the animatronics are possessed by a notorious serial killer and his employees, who transferred their souls to the robots before they died, it becomes easy to think that this is a simple fight to survive, not an epic contest between good and evil that has huge ramifications for the world. It’s a fight to the death for no better reason than the animatronic characters seeking to cause mayhem and murder. The sheriff of the town even admits as much, as she and several others made a deal with the robots to stop them from terrorizing the town. The sacrifices they would keep bringing in kept the killer robots placated, but the fact that a young girl, the female lead of the movie, was left alive when her parents were killed put a severe snag in the plan. The Janitor was simply a wild card; another would be the sacrifice that somehow managed to disrupt the plan.
Overall, this movie was a lot of fun.
It was definitely goofy, but it was fun since it didn’t require Nicolas Cage to be anything but the eccentric type of actor that many people have seen over the years, and it worked perfectly for this type of story. His role as the Janitor is one of those that’s simple, to the point, and might raise a lot of questions, but he doesn’t beg for answers since he accepts him as he provides too much fun. When was the last time a character simply fought back without showing that much emotion? That’s a big part of what makes this movie work.
Sometimes simple movies just work.