Directed by: Kris Pearn
Written by: Kris Pearn & Mark Stanleigh
Starring: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski
While simple science and biology dictate our blood family, finding it in others still remains the choice of the individual. Crafting that choice happens in quite the unique way in The Willoughbys, which creates a cute story behind some young characters unafraid to cause some serious damage.
Tim Willoughby (Will Forte) comes from a long line of family members with grandiose mustaches. He believes strongly in respecting his ancestors but has parents that could care less about him and his younger sister and twin brothers. In order to get rid of them and become orphans, they send them off an adventure that they’re sure will lead to their deaths.
For something rated PG, The Willoughbys really goes for it with how dark these children can be with their cheery attitude. For those who have seen Home Alone, you know the intricate and damaging things children can do with smiles on their faces. Tim and his siblings can be quite devious but their situation finds them in a predicament that not many children have to encounter. They have parents that only have eyes for each other and feed the children yesterday’s scraps. If the children dare to ask for food, they get thrown into the basement. What else could they expect when the parents told them once they were born that if they wanted love, they needed to look for it somewhere else?
It’s a comical setup and the cruelness gets covered with just how ridiculous their behavior appears to be. Once the parents head off on this adventure, they know the children cannot be left alone, but they decide to hire what they perceive to be the worst nanny. Unknowingly, they sent someone who was their complete opposite and showed the children a compassion they never thought they would receive from an adult.
The introduction of the nanny really kicks off the plot, because it shows how care can be confused for malice if it’s nothing one has ever experienced. It lights a fire under these kids in a way they could not comprehend and captures the beauty of this film’s message. This juxtaposition also creates the funniest moments in the way they fight off this care and how they try to maintain the order of their home in ways. Their methods of vetting the nanny would look incredibly cruel if not for each attempt failing and finally succumbing to receiving love from someone is what they’ve always wanted.
With the nanny’s introduction, it proves that it’s the smallest things that can make the difference for a child. Jane simply wants to sing but gets chastised by her parents because it disrupts their attempts to have silence and knit. The twins are simply just strange in their own adorable way and the smallest bit of attention and care brought on by the nanny makes a large impact on them. The biggest case to crack is Tim as he battles with trying to honor the family name and manage the abuse he’s received his entire life, especially with him being the oldest. He’s had to endure the madness of his parents for the longest, which makes sense that he would have the most difficulty with any new disruption.
The animation feels so beautifully textured, especially when it comes to the hair of the children. It looks unique in its style and shows that Netflix brings forth many different styles of animation when looking at their other features like Klaus. This particular style stands on its own and looks incredibly refreshing.
As dark as some moments can be, it all comes together for a delightful message about what makes a family and how it comes down to choice. One of the songs by Jane indicates just that with its beautiful tone. The Willoughbys is a nice bowl of fun, which has some sour bits but comes together very well in the end.