We have all seen our fair share of tales about wayward kids finding themselves a new home and a new family. The theme of finding love and acceptance outside of the conventional meaning of family has been explored in many forms of storytelling. The Willoughbys take that concept and inject a ridiculous amount of weird, whimsy, and sweetness.
The film kick starts with a family history of the Willoughbys (a family tree that may be lacking in branches). The Willoughbys are an eccentric family that have passed down their strange and unusual habits down from generation to generation until it produced Father (Martin Short) and Mother (Jane Krakowski). Two horrible people who have emotionally abandoned their children, and only had love for each other. Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara), and the twins Barnaby and Barnaby (Seán Cullen) have been largely left to their own devices, that is until their tense relationship with their parents reach a breaking point, and the children decide to become orphans.
Just like Netflix’s first animated feature, Klaus, The Willoughbys has an exceptional animation style, this time paying homage to stop motion animation. Based on Lois Lowry’s book of the same name, writer-director Kris Pearn loads heaps of imagination and whimsy onto the story, from the script to the visuals, every inch of the film is a wonder to behold. It is a dazzling spectacle and an explosion of colourful delights that almost become too much. However, the wild and sometimes darker elements of the story balance it all out.
The one thing that threatens the story through the whole endeavour would be with the choice of narrator (Ricky Gervais), but the talented voice ensemble led by Will Forte, Alessia Cara, and Maya Rudolph (who voices the Nanny) make up for it.
The Willoughbys is quite the accomplishment, a sugar-pop spectacle that perfectly compliments the darker tales of Henry Selick, namely The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. The latter being a complimentary double-feature partner to The Willoughbys. With determination and imagination, The Willoughbys is a delightfully twisted sugar-coated tale that will have you laughing and in awe along to the very end.
The Willoughbys is available on Netflix now
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.