It’s Nicolas Cage vs. homicidal animatronic puppets in Willy’s Wonderland

It’s Nicolas Cage vs. homicidal animatronic puppets in Willy’s Wonderland
VOD round-up is a weekly feature looking at films being released across video-on-demand platforms.

Willy’s Wonderland

Nicolas Cage’s particular brand of outré performance art (which he himself describes as “Nouveau Shamanic”) sometimes brands a particular project with expectations that it can’t possibly meet. The idea that Willy’s Wonderland is a movie in which Nicolas Cage is attacked by homicidal animatronic puppets is practically enough. It’s a movie that writes itself in the broad sense of the term, where it eventually bumps up against the more complex idea of having to exist as more than a killer one-liner. In that sense, Willy’s Wonderland never had a chance — it simply cannot live up to the promise of its premise, which would be true even if the film were not a low-budget horror movie with all of the inherent pitfalls that entails. Willy’s Wonderland is cheap and butt-ugly and filled with merely adequate performances from a bunch of people who are not Nicolas Cage… but it also delivers plenty of Nicolas Cage destroying the aforementioned homicidal animatronic puppets.

Cage plays a mute stranger who accepts a gig cleaning out a Chuck E. Cheese-type restaurant in exchange for repairs on his car, which has unfortunately hit a spike strip on the outskirts of town. What the stranger doesn’t know is that the restaurant is almost certainly haunted and that a ragtag band of teenagers have become determined to destroy it before it claims any more lives.

That’s about all there is to it. The film is split pretty evenly between scenes of Cage silently cleaning and/or kicking the robotic asses of huge bunnies and other critters and significantly more boring scenes with teenagers being murdered in routine fashion. 

Willy’s Wonderland is a stupendously ugly movie from a visual standpoint, awash with garish filters and fogged-up nonsense presumably meant to disguise the film’s low budget. The teenagers are more or less interchangeable cannon fodder, and one can’t help but pine for Cage whenever he isn’t on-screen. Nevertheless, when Cage is on-screen, it’s pretty hard to argue against the simple pleasures of Willy’s Wonderland. Though it never transcends its cast-iron premise and frequently comes up short, in fact, it’s undeniably a pretty fun B movie when it starts firing on the right cylinders.

Willy’s Wonderland is on VOD now. For more information about the film, please visit its IMDB page. Watch the trailer below:

Willy’s Wonderland starring Nicolas Cage

Eat Wheaties!

Scott Abramovitch’s debut film Eat Wheaties! is a very peculiar beast, though it certainly doesn’t seem like one at first glance. Had the film come out a few years ago, in the wake of Napoleon Dynamite and its irony-poisoned brethren, it would have been extremely easy to dismiss as yet another comedy built around quirk and the schedules of a dozen overqualified comedic performers whose regular series are on break. But, weirdly, there’s very little irony to be found in Eat Wheaties! even if its entire premise suggests otherwise.

Tony Hale plays Sid Straw, a dorky middle-management Midwest type who is many years removed from his glory days as a college improviser and roustabout. Extremely lonely and prone to trying way too hard to be genial, Sid constantly reminds his entourage that he was on the same improv team as Elizabeth Banks in college. When his college reunion rolls around, he makes a Facebook account and begins what he thinks is a private correspondence with his old friend that’s actually just one-sided oversharing on her public page. The faux pas soon turns his world upside down.

The thing about Sid Straw is that he isn’t exactly the cartoonish maladapted weirdo that he would’ve been if this movie had come out in 2007. Though he certainly could use a dose of self-awareness, he’s mostly just a garden-variety dork with good intentions and relatively normal social skills that everyone nevertheless treats as if he were in a Jared Hess film. Eat Wheaties! occupies a very bizarre position in which it appropriates the language and codes of the cringe comedy but refuses to direct even an ounce of cruelty or malice towards its character. On one hand, I agree that comedies that look down at their protagonist and keep them at arms’ length for laughs are pretty passé; on the other hand, it’s thoroughly insane for everything about the visual and narrative language of a movie to point to that and instead luxuriate in a bizarre nicecore vibe that eventually nudges the film into a ill-advised treatise on the perils of cancel culture. 

Eat Wheaties! is definitely not awful. In a way, I sort of respect the way it tries to have it both ways. But an extremely overqualified cast (Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, Tom Walton, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Goldberg, Sarah Chalke, Alan Tudyk, Paul Walter Hauser, Sarah Burns and Sugar Lyn Beard all appear) is left to flounder in a movie that is ultimately extremely bizarre in its banality.

Eat Wheaties! is on VOD now. For more information about the film, please visit its IMDB page. Watch the trailer below:

Eat Wheaties! starring Tony Hale

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