Where would midgets be without the movies? They can’t be athletes, can’t ride horses, and NASCAR drivers aren’t allowed to sit on phone books. Unfortunately, while uniquely entertaining, few “little people” have much acting ability. As a result, most filmmakers have the sense to use their midgets in small doses. The exception is Willow.
Willow is a classic fantasy tale of the most common sort. The smallest of people is given the greatest of tasks, the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Willow Ufgood is certainly the smallest of people, even among his kinsmen, the Nivlen. But, he alone has the courage to protect the life of a small child destined for greatness. Along the way he’s helped by the usual assortment of fairytale wizards, witches, swordsman, and thieves.
However, in spite of the fact that Willow at times gets bogged down wandering about aimlessly in the bushes, director Ron Howard maintains a sense of childlike fun and wonder frequently absent in darker fantasy debuts. But, perhaps the real highlight of the movie is Willow himself, played by Warwick Davis. It’s difficult to recall the last time I saw any “vertically challenged” person who could actually act. Most such rolls are filled based on the “little person’s” stature than any specific acting talent. Yet, in the case of Davis, he rarely fails to deliver, in spite of some frequently awkward and uninspired dialogue from script & story writers Lucas and Dolman.
Here is a film with a plot that leaks like a sieve. Even though I know it should bother me, to be so brazenly confronted with badly constructed plot lines and clunky scene switches, it’s nearly impossible not to simply have fun with Willow. Maybe Ron Howard found some way to overcome Lucas’ terrible writing; maybe Val Kilmer is just such a cocky piece of work he managed to pull the whole thing off with just a bit of old-fashioned attitude. Or, maybe I just have a thing for midgets.
80’s FX aside, Willow is one of a scant handful of fantasy films that are actually watchable. That in itself is an achievement. But doing so in the face of such plainly awful writing and shaky choreography, that’s something else entirely. Someone on the staff of this flick deserves a medal, just tell me where to pin it.
Reviewed By: Joshua Tyler