‘The Willoughbys’ Film Review

Grade: B-

The Willoughbys (2020)   Like ‘The Addams Family’, ‘The Willoughbys’ is quirky both in style and sense of humor; taken straight from other dysfunctional families that have come before them, blended into a colorful, candy-coated, yarn-filled family-comedy-adventure that may be a bit predictable, but fun once you buy into its characters. Tim (Voice of Will Forte) is neurotic and wants the best for his family. His sister, Jane (Voice of singer Alessia Cara) is always singing the same melody and always asking the what-ifs of their situations, while both the Barnabys (Voice of Seán Cullen) are monotonously similar that it is hard to tell them apart, prompting their nanny (Voice of Maya Rudolph) to label one A and the other B. Though, what makes them all similar are their red-heads which come from a generation of Willoughbys before them.

The downside of their situation comes in the form of their posh parents (Voices of Martin Short and Jane Krakowski) who see them all as burdens and want nothing to do with them, instead professing their love for one another by purrs and trims of hair in such a ridiculous fashion that it is quite comical. From the start, these two are parents you immediately have a distaste for, even more-so than The Wormwoods in ‘Matilda’. ‘The Willoughbys’ twists the formula somewhat by kickstarting a plot that involves the children scheming a dangerous vacation for them, so they can finally be free from all the mistreatment. The sort-of material feels like it must have come from a children’s book (Not surprising that it is actually based on one written by Lois Lowry), yet extended to an hour-and-a-half of mischief and morals. The cartoony slapstick and bright visuals mean that there is so much to cram in that the film goes from one plot to the next; one moment, they find a baby on their doorstep and have to find it a new home, the next, they have to save their home from potential buyers, add in a league of child services, a candy magnate (Voice of Terry Crews), and the eventual trip to get their parents back, with all the action being narrated by a cat (with the voice of Ricky Gervais, no less) and you have the formula for your run-of-the-mill children’s movie.

For what it is, ‘The Willoughbys’ is humorously enjoyable, on-the-nose with its premise, and more-or-less a movie that kids may enjoy, and one that adults will find, at least amusing. With movie theaters being shut down, and major motion pictures being postponed, I would not be the least bit surprised if this film got an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Animated Feature’.

2 thoughts on “‘The Willoughbys’ Film Review

    1. Compared to ‘Matilda’, I don’t think it is as dark, especially with the whole neglectful-parents-with-gifted-children aspect, but it was surprisingly just as mean-spirited, though played in a more comedic fashion.

      Liked by 1 person

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