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Willard (2003)

A 2003 movie directed by Glen Morgan.

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A fun movie for the whole family...almost

  • Oct 29, 2003
  • by
My wife and I watched this movie a few days ago, hoping it might end up being suitable viewing for our 11 year old daughter who loves creepy movies. Except for one scene where the villian is surfing the web looking at porn sites and one "f" word...the movie meets the standard. But not close enough.

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!

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More Willard (2003 movie) reviews
review by . July 12, 2011
A curious remake of the 1971 horror B-movie, in which a born loser who lives in the miserable company of his wretched mother (Jackie Burroughs) and under the baton of a cruel boss (R. Lee Ermey) finds friendship and a means to wage revenge in the company of rats.      Glover is perfectly cast in the titular lead: spineless, seething with resentment and impossibly weird. Most other character actors train for years to fake the kind of bizarre demeanor that the Hellion seems to …
review by . December 13, 2004
It's a shame that such a wonderfully weird actor such as Crispin Glover has never achieved the success of many other, lesser actors in Hollywood. He's flat out creepy and funny at the same time. With that said, Glover is the shining star of "Willard," a tale about a man gone mad, using rats to exact revenge on those who've spurned him.     The story starts out promising enough, showing Glover taking care of the rat problem his mother says that they have. He befriends one of the …
review by . March 04, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
First, let me say that I think Crispin Glover was a great Willard. He played the character to the hilt even though he has probably viewed Hitchcock's Pyscho one too many times. There are many similarities between Anthony Perkin's Norman Bates and Crispin's Willard and not only the Oedipal facet either. Mr. Morgan (X-Files) delivers this movie in the way that many X-Files episodes have been filmed. I didn't know about the X-Files connection until after viewing the film but kept thinking... Man, this …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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As accomplished as it is superfluous, Willard is a stylish horror film with plenty of style and precious little horror. Genre buffs will appreciate it as a visually superior sequel/remake of its popular 1971 predecessor, giving Crispin Glover a title role perfectly suited to his uniquely odd persona, in the same league as Psycho's Norman Bates. This time, Willard's the psychotically lonely son of the original film's now-deceased protagonist; a milquetoast introvert who befriends an army of obedient rats--lethal allies when Willard's pushed to his emotional breaking point by his abusive boss (R. Lee Ermey). In keeping with his memorably macabre episodes of X-Files, writer-director Glen Morgan excels with dreary atmosphere and mischievously morbid humor (including an ill-fated cat named Scully), and Glover gives his best performance since River's Edge. But even the furry villain Ben--an oversized rat with attitude--is more funny than frightful...so really, what's the point? With some justification, Glover's fans will appreciate the open door to a sequel. --Jeff Shannon
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Director: Glen Morgan
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 2003.3.15
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Glen Morgan, Gilbert Ralston
DVD Release Date: October 7, 2003
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
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