Based on the beloved book of the same name by Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys tells the story of four neglected siblings looking to find freedom by sending their parents on a dangerous journey. Their adventure includes a joyous new nanny, scary government agencies, a Willy Wonka-type figure, and an abandoned baby.
Watch this if you:
Love zany, colorful, heartwarming stories. There’s a darkness to this film that requires some level of maturity for kids to fully understand, but it’s a great watch for families and fans of things in the same vein like A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s subversive in a way that keeps you laughing and on your toes. Plus, if you’re a lover of animation, you are definitely in for the sweetest of treats.
What I think:
I think a lot of people make the mistake of discounting animated films. Movies like Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, Kubo and the Two Strings, and The Lego Movie proved that innovative animation can come with great storytelling, which is exactly what The Willoughbys brought to the table. The film’s zany, stop motion-like, craft material world is not just pretty to look at, it also helps tell the story and achieved the look of the old-fashion children’s tales it’s trying to parody.
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I love that the film’s humor has some bite to it. It sprinkles in a lot of laughs for kids and adults which surprised me in the best way (or wonder how they sneaked that into a kid’s film). The cast put out really great performances from Jane Krakowski’s snooty Mother to Maya Rudolph’s loving nanny and Ricky Gervais as the sardonic narrating cat. The decision to provide no redemption for an abusive household really put a focus on their idea of a chosen family, and while the end result is expected, the journey to get there was fun, heartwarming, and just about everything you need from a candy-colored story like this.
The Willoughbys is now streaming on Netflix. Watch it here.