The Willoughbys (2020) - Movie Review

Monday, August 24, 2020

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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. (IMDB)

Rating: PG

Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes

Genre(s): Animation, Adventure, Comedy


Directed by: Kris Pearn, Rob Lodermeier, Cory Evans (pre-production)

Written by: Kris Pearn, Mark Stanleigh, Lois Lowry (based on the book by)

Starring: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Ricky Gervais

The Willoughbys, adapted from the book by Lois Lowery, is an animated comedy released on Netflix earlier this year. I have attempted to write this review several times. I just can't seem to decide how I feel about it. The film is very much one of those that you will either really like or really hate...or just be left confused. While watching, several flaws stick out to me, however when given time to settle (and let's be honest, forget certain things) it doesn't seem as bad. I usually avoid reading reviews done by others until I have finished mine to prevent my opinion from being tainted, but due to how conflicted I felt (and because they kept appearing in my sns feeds), I decided to take a peek at what others thought. It didn't help. I have watched The Willoughbys twice now. I try to watch each film I review at least three times. I don't want to watch it again though. That probably says everything you need to know about it. 

So, what do I like about it that is keeping me from saying it is awful? Two things: the animation and Ricky Gervais. I loved the animation. There was a thread texture to everything, that ties in with the story and looks very unique. The film is very bright and the use of colors was fantastic. Ricky Gervais as the cat/narrator was a perfect fit. His delivery combined with the animation of the cat was my favorite thing about this film. It did not surprise me to see mostly gifs featuring the cat when I was looking for images to use in this post.

Now, what's so bad about The Willoughbys? The story is adapted from a book that I have not read. I do not know how true to it the film is. So please keep that in mind as I talk about the story. Granted...I am unsure if it was the story or the pacing that caused more problems. We start off the film with a backstory of how the parents got together and how they deal with their kids and how the siblings get along. Then we start with the main story that goes back and forth between being very slow and super fast and takes time to have scattered moments that seem pointless. Was there not enough story to make an hour and a half film with or did they just cut too much from the book?

I'm sure no one is surprised the cat was my favorite...right?

The main problem I had with the pacing was that it was super slow during things that were not vital to the story. Then, of course, the important stuff was rushed through. Each character has super unique personalities, but none are given an opportunity to truly shine or grow (at least not at a realistic pace). This led me to feel apathetic to them for the most part. The parents are absolutely awful but not in the typical awful parents in a children's film way. This is probably where my perspective of being older than the intended audience ruins things.

Don't get me wrong. I love films that do feature awful parents/families. Matilda and James and The Giant Peach are two of my favorite childhood films. However, the justice served in those films was much more satisfying. The Willoughbys is just sad (more realistic..but still).

As I already mentioned, I have watched this movie twice and have no plans of intentionally sitting down to watch it again. Will I play it in the background sometime? Possibly.

Rating: ✬✬✬✬✬✩✩✩✩✩ 5/10