Willard (2003)

Alan:

Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:


Warning major plot points revealed.

Willard is an excellent remake of the 1971 film of the same name.  After the wild success of the original movie and it's highly praised sequel Ben, it seemed proper that Hollywood would build on that splendid success by doing it all over again.  I propose that Willard be remade every 32 years and that it be officially recognized as an American tradition.   Creepy loner loser guy trains legions of rats to do his bidding. Has there ever been a better premise for a story? 

In case you're one of those people who don't like movies with lots and lots of rats, Willard is the story of a shy and broken young man named Willard.  He works at the company his deceased father built.  His boss, the new owner of the company, hates him and harasses him at every opportunity.  He's a really mean boss.  At home, Willard's decrepit old mother continues his torment.  At one point saying that the name "Willard" is horrible and that she will be calling him Clark from now on.  A new girl at work attempts to befriend Willard but is unsuccessful.  Willard is an emotional shut-in.  His life has been too hard.  Until the day he finds his soul mate.  Socrates is a clever white rat that Willard rescues from a trap in the basement.  The two immediately become best pals and Socrates helps Willard teach and train 1000's of other rats that quickly move into his house.  The rats soon obey his every command with the exception of the biggest rat of them all - Ben.  Ben resents Socrates and soon enters into a power struggle with Willard over dominance of the rest of the rat community. 

That's the story of the film.  I'm sure the novel was better but the written word probably cannot carry the imagery necessary to depict 1000's of trained rats eating a person's enemy.  No, I think you really need a movie to get that idea across.  And Willard is just the Movie to do it!

Crispin Glover is either a robot or a zombie.  He's 38 years old now and he looks exactly the same as he did the first time I saw him in the 1984 movie Racing With the Moon or the better known 1985 movie Back to the FutureAs far as I can tell he has not aged a day since the mid 80's.  He's a creepy weirdo in almost every role he plays and I always like his performances.  So it's no surprise that he does an excellent job with the role of the creepy weirdo Willard.  The only other actor of name is R. Lee Ermey.  You probably remember him as the Marine Corps drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket or perhaps one of the zillion other movie and T.V. show military guys that he's played over the years.  For this role he basically reprises his irrationally cruel and mean Full Metal Jacket character.  He's a fun actor and I like him.  He's got a neat show on the History Channel called Mail Call where people write him and ask him to explain military stuff.  

The special effects in Willard are flawless.  There are real rats, puppets and CGI effects.  You can't really tell the difference and that's the fun!  The main attraction is Ben.  Ben is a huge rat.  I don't mean he's big for a rat either.  He's crazy big!  Remember the Looney Toons cartoons when Sylvester and his son think the baby kangaroo is a giant mouse?  That's Ben!  Except Ben is evil and sinister.  He never really does anything but he always pops up and stares at the camera or Willard with that "I'm gonna kill you" look.  

Willard is one of those Sunday afternoon movies that's worth the 5 bucks and the 95 minutes.  It's a fun movie about a guy that can control a bunch of rats to mete out his revenge.  What more do you want from a movie?

 

Bonus:  If you stick around during the end credits you actually get to hear Crispin Glover sing the theme song Ben!  And that alone is worth the price of admission.