Monday, 27 October 2008

No.98 : Willow

‘Willow’ was one of the few George Lucas films that I hadn’t seen on release as I had a preconceived notion that it would be a bit cutesy pie and dull. And you know what they say about prejudging things? Yes, sometimes you’ll be right!

Lucas in fact only gets a story credit for the film with the always pedestrian Ron Howard on directing duties. The film is a Hobbit like fantasy yarn that Lucas no doubt came up with after reading some Tolkein and indeed The Bible.

Willow is a family man dwarf who lives with his similarly sized people in a wood. Things are going OK for him but elsewhere the wicked Queen, who is lifted straight from ‘Snow White’, is plotting to scupper a prophesy that predicts her downfall. A baby destined to take her throne is snatched from her mother but before she can be killed the tot is placed in a raft and sent down the river. As chance would have it lands by Willow’s village and is found by his kids. Willow tries to act as if he doesn’t want the baby but we know this is just poor performing from Warwick Davis and he’s up for extra daddy duties soon after.

When some bad guys show up looking for the chosen child Willow has to go on a predictable quest to allow the baby to fulfil its destiny. Along the way they meet lovable rogue Val Kilmer, who agrees to assist him, and various other peoples of the world including some tiny folk nicked wholesale from ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. Meanwhile the dastardly Queen sends her minions out to find our party including the unfeasibly lovely Joanne Whaley, who if she’s really bad then I’m a Dutchman.

The quest takes a predictable path with the requisite number of shots of the cast marching through the snow attained early on. As they head towards Mordor, sorry, the Queen’s Castle, they have an epic battle with a rubbish two headed plastic monster before the final showdown. Can Willow save the day and defeat the wicked Queen and still make it home to show off his new magic tricks? Probably.

I didn’t really like this film from the off and the game of ‘spot the rip off’ can only be enjoyed for so long. The set up with the lost baby was so clichéd I’m surprised that God didn’t sue for copyright. Once we have the characters and quest established you have a pretty unbroken and predictable two hour journey to the inevitable climax. You have to wonder why you bothered and I for one wish I hadn’t.

It is obviously a fantasy movie aimed at kids but films like ‘The Princess Bride’ manage to work with similar material and at least work in a few laughs for the adults and nod towards the predictability of the genre. I did quite like the Lilliputian like tiny folk but the special effects were too ropey to make them seem realistic. That and the plastic monsters suggest that Lucas failed to pony up a ‘Star Wars’ type budget and frankly it shows.

Of the cast Val and Joanne are best with a real chemistry that spilled over into real life. Kilmer especially seems to be having a good time as the lovable and hapless rogue and is almost a Jack Sparrow prototype. Warwick Davis is less good in the title role and never convinces at all. It’s certainly a tough ask of him to carry the movie and it’s one that he falls short of. To be fair the material is poor and hackneyed and some of the dialogue would have the best thesps in the world gasping for air.

‘Willow’ could have been a fun romp but instead it’s a dull retread of every fantasy film you’ve ever seen. It offers poor dialogue, rubbish special effects and a plot as straight as a pool cue. You may enjoy some of the film but those periods are as short as most of the cast.

Best Bit : Wagon chase

‘W’ Score : 11/23

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