Friday, June 12, 2020

‘The Willoughbys’ animated film delivers powerful message of family importance

By Matt Pascarella

Narrated by a cat (Ricky Gervais), Netflix’s computer animated tale tells of four children who have less than desirable parents.

Father (Martin Short) and Mother (Jane Krakowski) are madly in love with each other, but there’s one thing they don’t love: children. Yet, they have four: Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara) and twin boys, both named Barnaby (Sean Cullen).

Willoughbys were soldiers, scientists, explorers, kings, philosophers, aviators and artists – until Father and Mother. The children are often told to be quiet, aren’t fed from day to day or are thrown into the coal bin for lengths at a time. Against all odds, the children still have determination, imagination and hope.

One day, Jane finds a box with a ‘beast’ in it. It’s not a beast, it’s a baby. Jane wants to keep it, but the parents say ‘no.’ Instead, the father kicks all the children out of the house. The children, wanting to restore honor to the House of Willoughby, bring the baby to, what they say is the perfect home: Commander Melanoff’s (Terry Cruz) candy factory. He happily accepts the baby, who gets named Ruth – get it?

Later on, the children hatch a plan to send their parents away because they think they’d be better off without them. So, they design a fake travel agency brochure. Little do the children know, their parents have a similar plan to hire a really bad, really inexpensive nanny in hopes to drive the children away. That’s not exactly what happens, though.

The Nanny (Maya Rudolph) sees how terrible the parents have been to Tim, Jane and the Barnabys. Jane tells the nanny about Ruth and they go back to Commander Melanoff’s factory, where he tells them he wants Ruth to stay. The candy man is a family man.

The parents are enjoying themselves so much, they decide they’re not going to return and will be selling the Willoughby home. With the realtor chomping at the bit to make this sale and people lined up from all around, the children boobytrap the house to drive buyers away. They even scare away the perfect family.

In a darker moment of the film, Orphan Services splits up Tim, Jane and the Barnabys because they believe a bad nanny has been caring for them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

With the entire family split up, will they ever get back together?

Do they need each other?

What about the parents?

Although this movie has several dark moments, it does have a powerful message: the importance of families, that come in all shapes and sizes. With its all-star cast, it stresses teamwork, adventure and when all seems lost, you never know what will happen; ‘the best stories are in the windows nobody looks in.’

It’s a clever movie that I think works on a level for kids and adults. While this wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, I think it’s a nice for a movie night. I give it one and half pink mustaches up. <

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