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Willow

Willow

What he said:

He

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away George Lucas actually knew how to write a good story! He seems to have lost his magic touch, but back in the day he was a fantastic storyteller. Willow was made back when he still knew how to tell an entertaining story that didn’t have a poorly constructed plot, sloppy storyline, or dialogue that was painful to watch (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels). Willow ranks right up there with his other classics, such as the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones movies.
Willow had mixed-to-negative reviews in theaters. It did not make a ton of money, but it did manage to make a small profit. It has also done fairly well on home video, and over the years I would say it has developed a nice little following. I’ve definitely noticed there is more of an appreciation for it now than there was when it was released. Trust me, I know. I spend countless hours reading about and discussing movies when while I could be doing something more beneficial to society. One could say I’m something of an expert on such matters.

Willow

Willow (Warwick Davis from Return of the Jedi and Leprechaun) is a young farmer and aspiring sorcerer. He is a Nelwyn (little person). He lives in a village with other Nelwyn’s, but is something of a misfit even amongst his own people. He hasn’t found much success as sorcerer and his magical skills leave something to be desired. His magical abilities consist of little more than card tricks.

He also has an ongoing rivalry with local businessman and council leader Burglekutt (Mark Northover), who I love. This guy is hilarious. He’s such a jackass and rags on Willow relentlessly. He is the kind of character that I could picture myself getting really angry at as a kid. I always rooted for the good guy and hated the villains. Though Burglekutt was far from the villain, he is always on Willow’s ass, and being a fan of the heroes, that means I have to hate guys like this. I don’t have a choice. I’m wired that way. I can see the child version of me shaking my fist at the TV while watching this. He’s the kind of character you love to hate.

Willow’s life isn’t all bad though. He has a wife and two children whom he loves very much. His home life seems very happy compared to his public image. He also has a very loyal friend named Meegosh (David J. Stienberg). Though it’s a small group, Willow has a strong core group of people that care for and support him. They all have faith in him that he can become the next apprentice of the village’s head magician (Billy Barty). He’s a wise old fella who wears some funny clothes and is one of the more respected people in the village.  Willow seems to think he’s a strong candidate too.

Willow

Willow seems to be cursed at times though, so it should come as no surprise when fate rears its ugly head once again. One day, his children come across a Daikini (normal sized person) baby. Afraid she will bring the village bad luck to the village – and he will be blamed for it – he hides her in his home. This after he initially planned on leaving the baby in the river where they found her, but Willow is a good guy and can’t do that.  Keeping the baby a secret doesn’t last too long though. He is forced to bring her before the rest of the village when a creature attacks them. The beast is from the evil Queen Bavmorda’s (Jean Marsh) kingdom. For whatever reason, she wants that baby.

Long story short, it turns out the baby is kind of a big deal. She can bring about the end of the reign of evil Queen Bavmorda. How, nobody knows, but Bavmorda is terrified of what can happen and sends her minions all over the place to find her.  Willow isn’t aware of all this at the time, however as time goes on he quickly becomes involved in events far bigger than his tiny little village. He is initially tasked with simply taking the baby away from the village and finding a Daikini to give her to, but gets in over his head when he gives her to a most unreliable person. 

He reluctantly gives the baby - Elora Danan - to troublemaker and self-professed swordsman Madmartigan (played wonderfully by Val Kilmer). He’s certainly not the most original character every written – and you can actually see a lot of Han Solo in him – but Kilmer does such nice job with him that I did not care one bit.  Madmartigan is a former warrior who has kind of lost his way. You don’t get too many details on his past other than he used to belong to another kingdom’s army, but ended up leaving. Now, he only cares about himself. He also has a habit of finding trouble.. He stumbles upon Willow and his dilemma. Originally he only agrees to help because it is a way out of a bad situation, but qeventually begins to care for both Elora (Kate and Ruth Greenfield) and Willow.

Along the way, they run into all kinds of people and creatures while fleeing from Bavmorda’s soldiers. Speaking of which, Pat Roach is awesome as General Kael. First of all, he simply looks scary. That mask is awesome. Couple that with his size, voice, and a commanding performance, and he’s an awesome bad guy. He’s this movie’s Vader. Like I said, Lucas borrows from his other movies, but it works so well you don’t care. Jean Marsh’s performance as Bavmorda was one of the scariest of my childhood. Between this and Return to Oz, the woman scared the shit out of me as a kid. Joanne Whalley is also quite entertaining as her daughter Sorsha. She’s is one angry gal, but that changes when she and Madmartigan seem to develop feelings for one another. There’s some really funny stuff between them as well.

While all of that is wonderful, what really cements the movie to me is the chemistry between Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer. These two can’t stand each other at first and that is really entertaining at times. But as the friendship grows and a stronger bond is form, you go from laughing at their antics to rooting for their success in the mission.

Willow

Personally, I think this is one of the better fantasy movies ever made. The genre can be very hit or miss with me. I feel it sometimes pushes things too far. It chalks everything up to “well it’s magic” when something in the storyline doesn’t add up. Dare I say it, but I find this more entertaining than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The LOTR movies are very well made, but not the kind of thing you pop into your DVD/Blu-ray player too often. Willow has a fun-factor LOTR does not, which makes me want to watch it more often. I have watched this twice in the last few years, but haven’t watched LOTR in ages.  And forget Harry Potter, I think it’s easily better than those movies.  I really liked that series when it started out, and still really liked the characters by the time it finishes, but that series had no guts. The ending of each book felt exactly the same, just set in different situations with a different set of circumstances. Harry always won, those darn kids foiled Voldemort’s plot again, and there was always some unknown plot device that revealed itself to be the greatest thing ever to help them accomplish all of this. I’ve read all the books, seen all the movies, but have no desire to do either again anytime soon. Willow has it all as far as I’m concerned. It’s got action, adventure, romance, is pretty damn funny at times, and has everything essential to a fun ride. This is what movie magic is made up of. I watch something like this and it takes me back to my childhood. Though it was nowhere near as successful as some of Lucas’ other works, it’s on par to me. If you like his other stuff, I highly recommend this little gem. It’s great if you have kids too, but will definitely keep you entertained as well.

Verdict: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 1, 2011. It was rewritten on February 10, 2013.

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