Nicolas Cage doesn’t give a shit what you think about his career choices; directors and studios keep calling with work, and he says yes to almost everything.
There are very clear reasons for an Oscar-winning actor with box office clout to dive into the B-movie devilish bin of insane darkly comedic action thrillers late in his career, but I’m fairly certain having fun and paychecks are a big part of it.
Cage’s latest, “Willy’s Wonderland,” or shall I say his latest trailer to be released ( he has four other projects completed or in some form of production), is about a drifter who takes a job as a janitor at a Chuck E. Cheese-style kids restaurant from hell who discovers that these crazy toys are coming to life. He also realizes that several other “janitors” have gone missing, and other chaos ensues. Think about the end of “Zombieland” with a lot more weird shit. Think “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” but without John Candy and a seemingly harmless stuffed animal trying to kill you. I like where director Kevin Lewis’ head is at.
Here’s the trailer for you to check out before I talk a little more about why this looks like a blast.
Five things real quick.
1. If I had to ask G.O. Parsons how he came up with the script, I imagine a bowl of weed and some late night television probably did the trick. The only other thing on his resume for writing is an episode of “Shark Tank.” While I imagine Mark Cuban being chased by a giant caterpillar, think about Parsons on the couch scrolling, as Final Draft sits open on the computer a few feet away. Maybe “Con Air” came on right when he was thinking about the scary-looking stuffed toys kids get at at a kid’s birthday party all of a sudden coming to life. Whatever it was, cheers my man.
2. Cage doesn’t say a word in the trailer, and I like and dislike that. One of Cage’s strengths is his rapid-fire dialogue delivery and how he can insert just enough wacky in it to give it some life. If the drifter is silent, I can dig that, but hopefully there’s a reason for it.
3. Is he the good guy or bad guy here? A bunch of young people show up midway through the 110 second preview, telling him about the evil boss who just hired him. But then we see Cage continue to slaughter people and things, I think.
4. How many adults have wanted to walk into a Chucky Cheese and start punching everybody and everything? If the answer isn’t all of us, something is wrong. It’s a creepy, overly loud, fucked-up place. Would you really be surprised if you saw this in the news?
5. Here’s what I think about Cage and his film choices. I think options got limited for him at some point due to personal money and tax issues, so he’s making the best of it. That’s it. I also think he’s more than a little crazy, and likes to take on wild roles that make his detractors complain and whine about the misses on his resume. All of them aren’t bad. We don’t need to treat Cage’s career with the wet towel of Lorenzo Lamas or Christian Slater. All of the recent work hasn’t been terrible. Cage’s noir detective in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” his other more calm drifter in “Joe,” and his take on Hank Forrester in Oliver Stone’s overlooked “Snowden.” He’s had a rough ride in the past decade, but that doesn’t take away from his zany appeal.
But it’s his Red in 2018’s “Mandy” that comes to mind here. A much volatile version of Red lives in Lewis’ film. All I can take away from that gloriously dark and pulpy film was the shot of a blood-drenched Cage getting ready to unleash whoop-ass on the men who ruined his life. Something similar is happening here.
Out of the eight films that Lewis has directed, this is only the second time he hasn’t written AND directed the project, so Parsons’ script definitely carries some wide-eyed zeal to its madness.
Bottom Line: A director gets a good script and thinks to himself, “which movie star will consider this role and actually do it justice without that many words?” Nicolas Cage was the answer. In most films, it’s as if he’s in his own little world, and we are just living in it, two hours at a time.
“Willy’s Wonderland” arrives on Feb. 12 via on demand video, including Amazon, Apple, and other outlets fit for crazy action at the Six Flags from hell. Cheers.