The Willoughbys went completely under my radar, not so surprising I suppose when you consider that it’s an animated film that doesn’t fall under the ever-encroaching umbrella of Disney. This in itself was quite a nice surprise as most non-Disney animated films tend to have a completely different vibe about them, such is the case with The Willoughbys.
Based on Lois Lowry’s novel of the same name, The Willoughbys follows the story of the neglected Willoughby children who hatch a plan to escape the thrall of their terrible parents by orphaning themselves – yes, you read that correctly, and it wouldn’t be an adventure if that plan didn’t turn out to be a needlessly elaborate plot – which it is, but that’s part of the fun of course.
The Willoughby children consist of Tim, the rational eldest, Jane, the fun-loving middle child and the creepy twins named Barnaby (yes, both are named Barnaby). Tim is also obsessed with the once-proud history (and mustaches) of the Willoughby family, and wishes to recapture that lost grandeur however impossible that may be, his parents being the biggest obstacle of course.
One day, a baby is dropped off at the gates of the Willoughby house, and news of yet another child prompts the Willoughby parents to kick out all their children who may return provided they get rid of the infant. Needless to say, this puts all kinds of things into motion, including the idea of creating a travel brochure of dangerous places that would lure the parents to certain doom, thus orphaning the children…just as they wanted.
The Willoughbys is narrated by a blue cat (voiced by Ricky Gervais), adding a nice storybook feel to the atmosphere, further enhanced by the beautiful storybook-esque animation of the movie. While the overall story certainly lacks the scope of say your typical Disney animation or story of it’s ilk such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, it is a heart-warming and enjoyable tale all round, even if some of the plot devices – such as the baby at the doorstep are a bit clunky (the baby is literally just a trigger to progress the story and has no real bearing on the welfare of the Willoughby children.
I’ve never heard of Bron Studios however, looking at their Wiki page, they seem to have released many, many films since 2010 so it may be worth taking a look at their library, you never know what you might find. In conclusion, Netflix’s latest animated film while certainly worth a watch, leans a bit too much into style over substance as while its animation is undoubtedly delightful, there isn’t enough here to warrant repeated viewing.