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Willard (2003)
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Review Date: March 10, 2003
Director: Glen Morgan
Writer: Glen Morgan
Producers: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Actors:
Crispin Glover
R. Lee Ermey
Laura Harring
Plot:
A lonely, belittled man who still lives, and takes care of, his grumpy aging mother finds a friend in a cute white rat that he meets in his basement. He loves the rat, he sleeps with the rat, heck...he even trains the rat and all of his rat friends. It isn't long before the man requires the aid of his rodent buds in his own life and that's when the fun really begins. Rats and the always creepy Crispin Glover...ensue!
Critique:
This movie had my name written all over it: it featured a dark theme, starred the loveable kook-meister himself Crispin Glover, had those "X-Files guys" behind the scenes in Glen Morgan and James Wong and was loaded with a bunch of friggin' rats!! After seeing the film's wicked trailers, I was hooked, line and mousetrap. I tell you all this because I was slightly disappointed with the end product of WILLARD but mostly because of my larger-than-life expectations. The film did, however, maintain its incredibly dark theme throughout, showcase a fun over-the-top fun performance by Glover and feature thousands of rats scrambling around one very groovy abode. Sure, it didn't have enough character development for my taste, but that's not really a major sticking point since I doubt the filmmakers were shooting for a remake of TERMS OF ENDEARMENT or something. This movie co-stars rats!! And even though the mother character was probably the best played "annoying mom" since Anne Ramsey in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, the two other leads in Laura Harring and R. Lee Ermey were respectively downplayed in one small, one-dimensional role as well as one generic tough-as-nails boss part. Glover was also a little one-note, but at least his note was entertaining as heck and if you want to see a guy "lose it" like no one has lost it since Nicholson in THE SHINING, check this guy out here: he's a nutball from scene one to scene last and everything in between. Having said that, his character's obvious nature didn't really pull me into any major suspense, but I had enough fun watching him sweat, squirm, cry and go bonkers at everyone around him, that I didn't need much else.

The story here is also pretty standard with Willard basically not liking his boss, training rats in his spare time and well...you can kind of figure out the rest yourself, but I also liked how the filmmakers injected a subplot about the internal politics of the "rat gang", as well as some "sexual tension" between them and Willard? A couple of scenes also stood out, prime among them being the one featuring a cat loose in the house with the song "Ben" curiously playing in the background (the tune is also sung over the end credits by Glover himself), as well as one pretty emotional sequence in which a rat is killed, but you really feel for the poor rodent (kinda like Wilson in CAST AWAY). The first one is a classic scene but kitty lovers...beware! The CGI stuff was also held to a minimum and barely noticeable (thank you!), although one very awesome looking scene with Glover and the rats coming out of an elevator was a little obvious, but also quite slick. Is the film scary or gory? No. Most of the stuff is either implied or shown for a second or two. It does offer up plenty of goodies though, chief among them being the unique performance by Glover, who eats up a couple of major scenes, but also gives you a real sense of lonely, frustrated desperation (by the way, why is that no one else notices that this guy is out of his friggin' mind?!?!), as well as the dark, creepy set design and cinematography, which are all top-notch across the board. Oh yeah, WILLARD also features one of the coolest opening sequences that I've seen in quite some time as well as an improbable, yet effective, relationship between he and the rats. A couple of small in-jokes also made their way into the screenplay including a reference to The Simpsons' Smithers (blink and you'll miss it), a mention of "Scully", the name of Gillian Anderson's character on "The X-Files" and a wink to the man who played Willard in the original 1971 version, Bruce Davison.

All in all, this quick paced, dialogue-challenged, rat-infested "horror" flick wasn't all that I was hoping it might be, but it did offer enough rodents munching down, a great lead performance by Glover and plenty of creepy atmosphere, to make up for its lack of character depth or surprises in storyline (it's also the kind of movie that I can foresee watching a few times over). Fans of Crispin Glover should also line up around the block for this one (if he has enough fans to get around there, that is), because WILLARD is his ultimate part with every close-up, every move, every quirky look and nervous twitch screaming Glover!
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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