With no new movies on the horizon, Netflix saves the day with The Willoughbys!
When movie theaters shut down at the end of March, things looked grim. No new movies for… how long? No one knew. Two months later, that’s still the case. Theaters continue to be closed and besides the occasional morsel of news or a trailer every two weeks or so, Hollywood remains, for all intents and purposes, shut down. Like many, I have grown increasingly desperate for new content. Watching old classics that I have never seen and reliable favorites can only do the trick for so long. I need new movies and I need them now! Luckily, streaming services have come to our rescue.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and several other streaming services have released or will release new movies in the coming weeks. Just as one might expect from their trips to the cinema, not every movie is a winner. That’s just the nature of Hollywood. Some have proven to be worth our time though. Netflix’s The Willoughbys is a ray of sunshine casting down on these cold, dark days.
“Netflix’s The Willoughbys is a ray of sunshine casting down on these cold, dark days.”
For generations, the Willoughby name has represented something. It has been held by families that are adventurous, that always eats their meals together, and weirdly, that all have mustaches – even the women. Most importantly, though, they are loving. That is, until the current Willoughby family came to be. Mother and Father Willoughby are unlike any before them. They are in love. Deeply, deeply in love. Sadly, this is to the detriment to how they treat their children. The two are so focused on one another that they have no time to spend with anyone else – including their kids!
Because of this, the four children, Tim, Jane, and a pair of twins, both named Barnaby, devise a plan to get rid of their parents so they can live the lives they want to live. The four create a fake travel brochure to entice their parents to go on a dangerous vacation, in hopes of them not returning. They believe that with their parents out of the picture, they can be the Willoughby family that they are meant to be. Their plan goes awry, however, when a nanny shows up to watch over them.
“the four children… devise a plan to get rid of their parents so they can live the lives they want to live.”
The Willoughbys immediately sets itself apart from other animated movies targeted at children with its tone and humor. I do not remember the last time a movie targeted at children had such a dry wit with its humor. As much as I enjoy animated movies, a complaint that I often have is that they rely too heavily on pop culture references or toilet humor. The Willoughbys, however, has a voice of its own. It relies on the strength of its characters and screenplay. Going in with fairly low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself genuinely laughing out loud on more than one occasion.
The jokes come often and they almost always land. Kids acting more like adults than the parents is a trope we’ve seen before but the movie makes it fresh. That theme is important to the core of the film and it is done in such an outlandish, yet effective way, that I truly forgot at times that they were the adults. Despite the short runtime, I knew the characters and understood who they were. This allowed me to sit back and enjoy how the story was unfolding. My viewing was not bogged down by trying to get to know each individual character. I felt like I did when I was a kid watching Nicktoons and from me, that is the highest of praise.
“I felt like I did when I was a kid watching Nicktoons and from me, that is the highest of praise.”
Like those classic Nicktoons, however, sometimes The Willoughbys spends too much time on things that do not have a lot of relevance to the plot. There is a five minute scene where the four children find a baby and don’t know what to do. Additionally, there are three or four times where Jane kind of(?) bursts out into song. It’s never a complete song and it’s never fully explained. It’s an odd character trait that could have been explored more. It does kind of pay off at the end when we are finally given the chance to hear her sing a song in full. That particular scene was done well but does not entirely justify the singing from earlier in the film. As it stands, it seems forced and unnecessary. Even so, these are mild quibbles and ultimately does not affect my opinion on this clever little film.
During such unprecedented times, escapism is more important than ever. Everyone needs a break. It can be enticing to turn on the old reliable TV shows for your kids then scurry away to your home office. But I implore you to do something different. Fire up Netflix, toss on The Willoughbys, and have a fun movie night with the family. You won’t regret it!
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