THE WILLOUGHBYS (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, the Willoughby children hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation. The siblings then embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family.
After the success of Klaus, Netflix has released yet another original animated feature to prove to naysayers they are indeed serious in launching their own original content.
Based on the young adult book by American writer Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys tells the story of the once prestigious Willoughbys family who has since reduced to a shadow of their glorious past. Their patriarch, known only as Father (Martin Short) would rather spend his days indulging in his hobbies and romantic antics with Mother (Jane Krakowski) than caring for their four children, Tim aka Skinny Bones (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara) who loves to sing and a pair of smart, inventive twins, Barnaby.
Things reached a boiling point when Jane suggests to send their parents on a “fake vacation”, hoping the pair will eventually die of natural causes. What they didn’t know was their parents had engaged a cheap nanny, Linda (Maya Rudolph) to take care of them. Soon the kids will realize that the family they always wanted is just right in front of them but not before some zany adventures to the alps and a candy factory run by Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews).
Be prepare for a movie that has no happy ending as warned by the narrator, a tabby cat voiced by Rick Gervais with a storyline that parodied old fashioned story tropes. The Willoughbys is unquestionable in the spirit of Lemony Snicket rather than director Kris Pearn’s debut, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2. Everything in the Willoughbys world is politically incorrect. The Willoughbys each sports an epic twirling moustache regardless of their gender. The parents are selfish, cold and deprived their children of food while their children plot to kill their parents.
The Willoughbys is often dark and offbeat, in a way far more appealing to older kids. Especially for concerned parents who are accustomed to feeding their kids with safer offerings from Disney, the younger ones might not get the full idea of what is satire or the concept of an orphan. Still the animated flick is not all dark and bleak, there are occasional bright spots in the appearance of Commander Melanoff, his adopted child Ruth and the kind-hearted Linda which culminated in an explosion of rainbow colors and also an imaginative vehicle that runs on sugar.
Consider this is the first major outing from Vancouver based BRON animation, the CG is gorgeously rendered with characters, sets wondrously designed. Thor Ragnarok and The Lego Movie composer Mark Mothersbaugh provides the movie zany soundtrack and the catchy theme song “I Choose” by cast member, Alessia Cara. The Willoughbys can be a bit slow at the start, weird at times but as it progresses, you realized it provides some heartwarming moments, occasional laughs and a lesson that family can comes in all shapes and sizes not necessarily always be biological.
Review by Linus Tee