Review by Camden Ferrell
The Willoughbys is a new animated children’s film based on the 2008 Lois Lowry novel. This movie is sophomore film of director Kris Pearn (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2). While it feels too formulaic at times, the movie succeeds thanks to its offbeat tone and strong acting.
In this movie, four children decide to arrange for their neglectful parents to take a dangerous vacation in order to have a better life. When their parents leave, they are left with a nanny who shows them what family really means. This is a unique and quirky story, and it is one that’s considerably more bleak than other kid’s films. The movie isn’t afraid to take the story to unexpected or far-fetched places, and it’s a really interesting premise.
The comedy throughout is more or less what is expected from a kid’s movie. The jokes are predictable, and even if some gags are funny, the movie does not always succeed comedically. The script itself is adequate enough to carry the film’s plot, and it does have some clever lines, but it is fairly forgettable. However, both Pearn and the cast have some solid execution and timing that can make even the more lackluster scenes still feel warranted.
The acting throughout is really solid and features some standouts. Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) plays Tim, the oldest Willoughby child, and he does a great job. The performance is full of his classic wit, timing, and exaggeration that makes him such an enjoyable actor. He brings a lot of energy to a movie that persists even in its dull moments. Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids) also gives a great performance as Nanny. She also brings her classic charm and comedic presence to the film and has great chemistry with the rest of the cast. The acting in this movie definitely helps make up for the film’s shortcomings.
The tone and style also work heavily in the film’s favor. The animation is clean, and very nice to look at. It is creative with the way it animates certain moments, and its visuals are a nice change of pace. The movie also provides a darker and more cynical story than most children’s movies, and this helps set it apart. It balances its bleak humor with some cheesy humor and optimistic themes that make it a solid movie for kids to watch this weekend.
The Willoughbys may not be for everyone, but it is a sufficient movie for kids and families to enjoy this weekend. Even though it doesn’t always nail its landing in many ways, the acting, style, and quirky story ultimately make up for it.
The Willoughbys is now streaming on Netflix.