Anyway, you probably don't care about that. WILLARD is really good, clean fun. The story is not exactly the most action-packed, plot-heavy you'll find. In many ways, we've got a 45 minute movie stretch to twice that length...but that's actually OK. We get to really know the character of Willard (brilliantly played by Crispin Glover) quite well, and grow gradually in our sympathy for him.
And we get to know the character of the two lead rats! Yep, that's right, rats. If you don't know, Willard is a SUPER-shy, socially backward nerd who lives with his mom, and works in his dad's company for a horrible, mean, nasty, insulting boss. When Willard's bedridden, crazy mom tells him there are rats in the basement, Willard sets out to kill them and ends up befriending them, particularly one lovely white rat he names Socrates, who becomes Willard's "only friend." Willard and Socrates begin to organize the rats, and not only do we see Willard's gentle side coming out, we begin to see his dark, vengeful side. But it's Ben, the big, ugly, mean, gray rat who begins to run the rat-colony more on his own terms, and is a direct competitor with Socrates.
The politics of the rats, Willard's relationship with the rats and his slow emerging from his shell make up the majority of the movie. Yes, eventually we get to see the rats wrecking a little havoc, but honestly, this is a pretty tame movie. Only two people die (and one VERY unfortunate cat named Scully, in one of the movie's best scenes). And it is paced in a leisurely manner.
But it is never boring. Glen Morgan and James Wong brought this remake to life (the team behind the original FINAL DESTINATION, and many, many great early episodes of the X-Files). The sets are stylishly grubby, the lighting is theatrical and effective and best of all, the rats mostly look real. I know they are often computer generated, but except for one scene when they pour out of an elevator, they are quite convincing. And there are lots of real rats too, and the actors and the rats work well together (I can't believe I'm saying this!). The young rat playing Socrates has a great future!!!
And Crispin Glover...it's so good to see him again. Ironically, just three weeks ago, I watched BACK TO THE FUTURE again. He is just such a delightfully goofy screen presence. Intense and not quite of this world. And aside from his frightening performance in THE RIVER'S EDGE, we really haven't seen much of him. I understand he's VERY tough to work with, but I'm glad he got this role. To be honest, I cannot think of one single other performer who could have played the role like this. Any other actor would have put a bit of "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" into the performance, letting us know they know it's over the top. Glover is totally involved in his performance, and there is one scene where he is in a funeral parlor and just GOES OFF on an attorney visiting him. The moment packs a huge emotional wallop. In one way, it's hugely overacted...but in another, Glover has earned the right to explode and we feel like cheering. It's a triumphant performance...I won't say Oscar-worthy, because that's not really the point. It is a unique performance that must be seen to be believed. It's not a major work (just as the movie is not a major work), but Glover has imbued it with a seriousness only someone who doesn't fully comprehend he's in a piece of fluff can do.
Also, on the DVD are some really cool extras. The deleted scenes are actually fun to watch, the music video is hilarious (especially with Glover's commentary) and the two documentaries are quite worthwhile.
So, why only 4 stars if I love it so much? Well, despite my glowing praise, as I said, this is a pretty slight movie. It never really scares...it's entertaining but not thrilling. And the ending is not so hot. It feels a little tagged on, and, to be honest, kinda like the end of several early X-Files episodes! This was okay for the X-files (where you got to see more the next week) but is a bit of a let-down for the movie.
But, SEE IT! I really appreciated the fine effort everyone put into this film. You will too!
What did you think of this review?