Microreview: The Willoughbys

We use Common Sense Media a lot. I can’t speak for the details of how the SO reads their writeups, but I try to read against the individual reviews a little to try to see whether people are praising a pic for something I won’t like. Something both the parent reviewers and the site itself tend to skip is commenting on whether movies are racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, ageist, ableist, or otherwise derogatory toward identities. To some extent, this would be a depressingly fish-in-a-barrel exercise. Most movies pitched to the White mainstream are racist, sexist homophobic, classist, ageist, ableist, or otherwise derogatory toward identities.

This is a windy way of remarking that I’m going to try to include this angle in my microreviews, even if I do it inelegantly.

We watched Netflix’s The Willoughbys this evening. Animated, and it had two Black voices though only one character could have been considered Black. Maya Rudolph’s Linda was multiracial, but with limited race signifiers. Terry Crews’ Commander Melanoff was Black by voice but not in visible ways. Some of my White readers might point out that he was a giant with a blue cotton candy mustache, like the animators couldn’t have made a visibly Black person with a blue cotton candy mustache.

The story felt like the writers couldn’t quite make up their minds. Ricky Gervais’ cat narrator says it’s not a traditional movie with a happy ending, but it turns out very much to be that. It doesn’t have a linear path like some traditional stories, and does do a good job of showing the titular children failing multiple times at becoming a happy family. On the other hand, the ending message, that what they always needed was just each other which they had all along, is right up the middle and in line with Euro/American stories that show how it doesn’t matter what life you’re born into as long as you have pluck and some kind of family. These conditions and a happy life brought about by them are rather unevenly and unequally distributed.

Some good singing from Alessia Cara’s Jane, albeit not standout as contemporary movie songs go. The lead boy is a drip to the end, but we still have to have Jane surprised by her own power and the drippy lead boy be Linda’s pet project. Next time, leave the drip on his own and make a family of the other parts.

(Not so micro this time, huh?)

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