Let’s open up this review with a hypothetical. You are a filmmaker. You managed to produce a fully funded debut feature with a bankable star. Caveat. The premise is entirely meme-worthy and could be seen by Internet culture as nothing more than a joke. What do you do? This critic imagines that at some point this went through the head of the creative team behind Willy’s Wonderland. This decidedly R rated genre flick features Nicolas Cage fighting animatronic robots at an amusement arcade. Essentially an unofficial Five Nights at Freddy’s movie featuring Cage in a mute central role. This production could be a modest success by simply selling that premise to the right audience sight unseen
When viewers watch Willy’s Wonderland they will quickly realise the tone is aiming for a more credible approach. The direction from Kevin Lewis is decidedly styling over substance but is trying to inject some flair into the concept Unfortunately frenetic and sloppy editing lets him down. There’s some joy in watching Cage take on his robotic adversaries. That said despite the hard R rating the decision to implement fast cutting in the sequences means audiences can hardly bask in the novelty of watching Nicolas Cage do his thing. Add in some underdeveloped and bland teenage characters. You essentially have a soft remake of Green Room with killer robots taking the place of the neo-Nazis. Critically the robots lack any real sense of threat that Patrick Stewart and his company brought to the much better film. A formula emerges very quickly. There will be a sequence where the audience watches Cage do some janitor work. An attack set-piece where the central character takes on one of the robots. This is followed by an exposition dump from the teenagers or police investigating the funhouse. Rinse and repeat. It could have been worse. There’s enough entertainment to paper over some of the cracks if viewers look at it as anything beyond a broad execution of an amusing concept. For some, this will be enough. Any watcher looking for anything beyond that will find themselves decidedly wanting.
Willy’s Wonderland is what happens when a team of filmmakers try to elevate a very broad and meme friendly concept. They mostly don’t succeed. there’s some might enjoyment to be had in watching Nick cage punch some robots but beyond that, there is very little on offer beyond being a case example of style over substance. Those that want to see exactly what is offered within the premise might get something out of it. All others are recommended to stay clear.