The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys
Image source: Google

Ratings: 4.5/5

Director: Kris Pearn

Producers: Brenda Gilbert, Luke Carroll

Genre: Animated dark comedy

Language: English

Release Date: 22nd April 2020

Streaming Platform: Netflix

Voice Cast: Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Seán Cullen, Ricky Gervais, Colleen Wheeler, Nancy Robinson, Kris Pearn


Convinced they'd be better off raising themselves, the Willoughby children hatch a sneaky plan to send their selfish parents on vacation. The siblings then embark on their own high-flying adventure to find the true meaning of family.


Directed by Kris Pearn which he co-wrote with Mark Stanleigh; this adaptation of the 2008 children's book by Lois Lowry goes on a different route than the original piece, adapting ‘not-so’ lighter themes as it proceeds with lightning speed.

There are a lot of familiar elements that were adapted from the book. Despite the bright and vibrant animation, The Willoughbys does commit to this darker tone. Any time one expects for a twist to this tale, the movie delights in taking it in an unexpected and often darker direction. The film's blend of dark humour with warm sentiment and its idiosyncratic celebration of the quick-witted children make for pleasing entertainment.

The character designs by Craig Kellman, who most recently reimagined the characters of “The Addams Family” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” give the Willoughbys a rather different reddish-pink hair, visually associating the various members of the family together. There’s also an amazing subplot with another orphaned baby and a Willy Wonka-inspired candy factory owner that is another level of comedic genius. Everything from the character designs, their hair, to the crazy locales and the outrageous colour palette is incredibly well thought out.

The Willoughbys uses minute details to create situations for delivering some visual jokes. Clouds look like fluffy candy floss that float by a candy-powered vehicle and the children’s yarn-like hair can get messy and hilariously unmanageable. One could find that there are aspects of Linda’s design, story, and maternal traits that needs a moment to admire the brilliance. However, Rudolph’s performance is so beautifully executed that her presence feels like a necessary balance for the kids against their uncaring parents.

The Willoughbys often breaks out of its confines of impossible situations through fantasy. There is a speedy baby with a sweet tooth who defies the laws of gravity, a dirigible cooked up in a candy factory, and a talking cat. The movie’s villains are the Orphan Services, who with their black-out wide glasses and sharp suits had been taken over by skinny aliens.

But the main villain? It is the Willoughby parents who are presented as comically neglectful towards their kids. The movie isn’t afraid to show honest situations and not dumb it down. The movie doesn’t brush aside the biological parents’ lack of good parenting by the silver lining of the kids finding better ones. The Willoughbys makes it very clear: the real parents are the villains in this movie. Not because they’re absent, have an addiction to each other, or are unable to care for their children due to extenuating circumstances. They just don’t care about their kids.

So, the message is that sometimes, blood isn’t always best. It is a wonderful message for those kids who are in situations where that may very much be the case.

The heart of the story belongs to the kids, especially Tim, who has to learn to trust grown-ups again.

The Willoughbys has enough wit, humour, and originality for it to comfortably qualify to make it worth a watch.