The Willoughbys are a family of two parents (Martin Short, Jane Krakowski) and four children, though oftentimes the kids reckon they'd be better off without their parents. While eldest son Tim (Will Forte) dreams of bringing the clan back to their former glory, his sister Jane (Alessia Cara) just wants to sing and have fun. The Barnaby twins (Seán Cullen) are the youngest of the family; Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby didn't even bother to give them separate names.
Thus the children hatch a plan to send their parents away. Reveling in their newfound freedom, a Nanny (Maya Rudolph) soon arrives at their door - and this isn't any nanny. Meanwhile, The Cat (Ricky Gervais) watches over proceedings...
'The Willoughbys' is a strange and surprising movie which is very much of its own aesthetic. That's a trait you can't associate with too many non-Disney or Pixar animated features these days. In this world, the children's hair looks like yarn while the parents love each other but not their children; it's a surreal prospect but one that ought to, at the very least, encourage child viewers to appreciate what they have.
Our young heroes are charming, creative, lively and full of hope. Their situation is a silly yet quaint one as they'd opt to be orphans over putting up with their parents' neglect any longer. Tim wants to restore the family as explorers and inventors, blind to the fact that he and his siblings already display such qualities. Though he is the eldest, it turns out he has the most maturing to do.
The voice cast is phenomenal with Alessia Cara's singing providing a particularly nice touch. The standout is Maya Rudolph as the larger-than-life, always optimistic Nanny. She's proven to have a great range in voice acting of late between this and Netflix series 'Big Mouth' (which is brilliant, by the way, but definitely not suitable for children).
The silliness extends to a candy factory and its beefy owner, Commander Melanoff (voiced by Terry Crews, because who else?). It's not going to rank alongside the house of Mouse but it's a sweet story about the love and loyalty between siblings that will have you beaming. The range of colour and sense of imagination underpinning it is also quite a wonder. Visually, it'll recall 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs', which its director Kris Pearn, as it happens, co-directed the sequel to.
'Klaus' is still probably the best original animated feature to come out of Netflix. But given this follows just a few months later, it proves the streaming service is on the right track with these animation acquisitions.