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Willoughbys make a Weird Winner: Movie Review

The Willoughbys
Willoughbys make a Weird Winner: Movie Review
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins has been a reporter with Oakville News since 2016. Covering local news and live events, he specializes in film, theatre, and entertainment. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. Tyler is a proud graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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If you’ve been waiting for the perfect family movie night during quarantine, look no further than The Willoughbys. This animated feature film mixes a brilliant design, a funny story with high stakes. Netflix has produced a real winner.

What really works is how charming the whole enterprise is. The clever dialogue and the slick animated production design makes the film both likeable and easy to watch.

Based on the book by Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys follows Tim Willoughby (Will Forte) and his younger siblings under the (kooky) neglect of their parents. The children are convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, and hatch a sneaky plan to send their parents on vacation.

But once Mom and Dad (a hilarious Martin Short and Jane Krakowski) take off, the children learn the challenge of taking care of themselves. With the help of a bubbly nanny (Maya Rudolph), the Willoughbys begin an adventure to find the true meaning of family.

The Willoughbys

Yes, the movie features two parents who scarcely deserve their kids’ rescuing, but it presents this idea in a responsible way. Parents don’t worry – your kids won’t be putting snakes in your bed or poison in your coffee after seeing it.

Even the offbeat character designs are colourful without looking synthetic or unnatural. Legendary character designer Craig Kellman’s (the Madagascar and Hotel Transylvania films) art finally pairs with a good script. The best character by far is Baby Ruth; she’s among the cutest characters ever designed for a movie.

The Willoughbys also has a Canadian connection

Vancouver’s Bron studio and Netflix’s hard work paid off. The premise isn’t macabre or cheap. So many elements work so well together to make this polished work that the Willoughbys can be appreciated for its screenplay’s detail as well as on screen.

There’s also great pride knowing it’s a Canadian/American co-production – as well as knowing that three of the principals (Martin Short, Alessia Cara and Seán Cullen) come from the GTA.

The Willoughbys

So much of The Willoughbys is deliriously entertaining. Between baby Ruth and the Baranabys’ antics, a warmly snarky cat (Ricky Gervais in a rare win) and a city with a seriously hilarious traffic problem – it’s great. It’s non-stop laughter with jokes that are, amazingly, equally funny to children and adults alike.

This is the family quarantine film we’ve been waiting for all along. The strangest part is that Netflix released it over a month ago with almost no publicity. I wish I could’ve sung its praises back then so we could’ve watched it sooner.

Since theatres closed about three months ago, a majority of the new releases with premieres at home have been disappointing. From Trolls: World Tour to the worst-of-2020-so-far Scoob!, the offerings have been bad influences for kids.

Not only is this original work entertaining for everyone, but also it’s a film where integrity doesn’t sacrifice fun in the process. The Willoughbys is that rare achievement. It’s a stellar choice for family movie night.

The Willoughbys

8 out of 10
G, 1hr 32mins
Animated Family Comedy.
Directed and co-written by Kris Pearn.
Starring Will Forte, Alessia Cara, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Seán Cullen, Terry Crews and Ricky Gervais.
Now available to stream on Netflix for subscribers.

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