Remember those singing Chuck E. Cheese robots? Now picture them as homicidal slasher movie monsters, and you’ve got the basis for the new bargain bin film “Willy’s Wonderland.”
Throw in Nicholas Cage riding high on the meta joke that has become his career and you still don’t have a very good movie. “Willy’s Wonderland,” now available on video-on-demand, is what happens when uncreative people try to push a movie out the door as quickly as possible. It has an inkling of a good idea at its heart, but seems incapable of embracing the only good thing going for it.
If you’re desperate for a new, bloody slasher film in the middle of February, “Willy’s Wonderland” will suffice. If not, there are plenty of better Nicholas Cage films to watch.
The titular Willy’s Wonderland is an old family restaurant with a band of animatronic characters — exactly like Chuck E. Cheese — only these critter robots are possessed by the souls of serial killers. The rural town where they live has made a deal with the killers to send anyone who passes through the town to the restaurant like lambs to the slaughter, a sacrifice to keep the robots from attacking the townsfolk.
Then Nicholas Cage comes to town, a lone drifter who can handle himself in a fight and has no problem defending himself from Satanic killer robots.
Therein lies the one twist in this film that makes it a little interesting: Nicholas Cage kills the killer robots. The film is made like a traditional slasher, with scary lighting and an impending sense of doom, with the killer robots made to look as monstrous as possible. But when they go to kill Nicholas Cage, he fights back and kills them instead in self defense.
That is an interesting idea for this type of movie, but “Willy’s Wonderland” does not have the guts to fully embrace that idea. The movie should have immediately turned itself around and made Nicholas Cage the slasher monster, and make the animatronic animals the slasher movie victims running for their lives.
Instead, “Willy’s Wonderland” introduces a whole supporting cast of diverse teenagers who only exist to be killed like any other boring, old slasher movie. The teens even know that the robots are dangerous, but they’re still lined up to be killed one after another, as if the filmmakers were not brave enough to make a new and different kind of movie.
“Willy’s Wonderland” is hoping that the star power of Nicholas Cage going crazy is enough for you to pay for video-on-demand, but this slasher film is too cowardly to be more than the sum of its parts.