Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: The Willoughbys

Release date: April 22, 2020
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring:  Will Forte, Martin Short, Alessia Cara 

When the four Willoughby children are abandoned by their selfish parents, they must learn to survive on their own.  However, they have been raised on the Willoughby tradition (despite their parents not practicing it) and must now adapt their old-fashioned values to the contemporary world in order to survive.  

The Willoughbys is a stylized CG animated feature film. The animation is really something to behold, with exaggerated, angular people, and bright colors when needed.  The children are also very imaginative, and the Willoughby family and history is another strong note. The Willoughby family has plenty of interesting quirks such as yarn-like red hair, flowing mustaches, and a penchant for adventure and rule breaking.  All of these factor into the story and help to create distinctive characters and ridiculous situations.  And the animation itself is imaginative and stylized.  It seems to be trying to evoke a stop motion style, with animation that draws from some of those concepts.  For example, the clouds and smoke have a fibrous, cotton style to them reminiscent of some of things seen in Coraline.  And the animation itself has a jerkier quality to it that I associate with stop motion.  None of this is bad and I really loved the unique animation style and bright palette of the film.  The voice acting is also very good, with Ricky Gervais as narrator and all of the character's voiced in a quirky, entertaining manner.  

However, for an animated film rated PG, the story had some odd themes.  The parents interactions are not racy, but they are just weird to see. Their lack of compassion for their kids, although part of the story, could be a little disturbing at times.  And some of their complaints and punishments for the children are just odd.  It seems like they are based on other kids movies and scenes I have seen, but turned up a notch.  And similar to these interactions, some of the humor seems to be on the more mature side for a kids movie. I know that the filmmakers wanted to have less of a filtered experience for this movie, and they succeeded in that respect.  Also, the story itself about kids who plot an excursion that will kill their parents, could make for an uncomfortable viewing.  And the humor, likewise, can be hit or miss.  Although there are some funny parts, such as the interactions of the twin Willoughby children the Barnabys, much of the humor seems to be trying too hard or just fall flat.  Although the film does have some good messages and beautiful scenes, most notably the final part of it, the journey to get there might be too scary or awkward for many kids to see. 

The Willoughbys has some impressive, stylized animation, quirky characters, and good messages that might be too scary or awkward for some kids to see. 

Rent it.

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