Willow (1988)


After finding a baby girl in a basket by the river bank, farmer Willow (Warwick Davis, Return of the Jedi) is chosen by village leaders to take the infant back to her people. Unbeknownst to Willow and his people, though, the baby is a princess destined to dethrone an evil Queen (Jean Marsh, The Eagle Has Landed).

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Magic is the bloodstream of the universe.”

Willow is an entertaining, lavishly filmed adventure-fantasy movie. However, it’s awfully derivative. Once again, producer George Lucas steals shamelessly from celebrated Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Like Star Wars (1977), Willow is essentially a reworking of Kurosawa’s 1958 samurai saga The Hidden Forest.

As a matter of fact, Lucas goes on a thieving rampage: Willow isn’t only channeling Kurosawa’s 1958 action-comedy movie, but also J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings book series, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and even The Bible. The film’s cookie-cutter style has its charm, but the storyline is way too predictable and safe.

All things considered, Willow isn’t a bad choice if all you are looking for is a movie that helps you escape reality and relax for a couple of hours. Sometimes it is goofy, sometimes it is whimsical, sometimes it is corny, all in all, it’s a fine example of a fairy tale coming to life. The film has some slow patches, but the main character is appealing.

Although director Ron Howard (Cocoon) fails to transcend Bob Dolman’s (Far and Away) flawed screenplay, he gets terrific performances out of the fine cast. I say well done to Warwick Davis, who plays the title character with warmth and passion.

Val Kilmer (The Doors) is a lot of fun as an ornery bandit who helps Davis. Joanne Whalley (Kill Me Again) plays the evil witch’s daughter (Kilmer and Whalley got married after completing the movie). Jean Marsh and Patricia Hayes (The NeverEnding Story) steal a few scenes as the wicked witch and the good sorceress, respectively. The confrontation between Marsh and Hayes is my favorite scene in the movie.

The visual effects are the main joy of this film along with the sets, make up effects and costumes. Willow has a great sense of time and place. The visuals and sound effects by Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic received an Oscar nod from the Academy.

Truth be told, some effects look better than others. The scene where a goat is transformed into a person garnered a lot of attention because it broke new ground in the digital morphing technology. However, the effects regarding the two diminutive (and very, very annoying) sidekicks look terrible. There is also a two-headed monster that looks more funny than scary (where is Ray Harryhausen when you need him?).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Frankly, Willow wasn’t as good as I remember. I don’t know if memory is playing tricks on me again, or I have just outgrown the film. Willow has as much depth as a Saturday morning cartoon show. But the cast is good, and James Horner’s (Braveheart and Titanic) music score is awesome. While far from perfect, it’s the kind of escapist movie destined to give audiences a silly good time. Color, 126 minutes, Rated PG.

This is my contribution to The Wilhelm Scream Blogathon, hosted by Realweegiemidget.

The Wilhelm Screams (in Willow):

12 responses to “Willow (1988)

  1. Interesting bit of trivia about the film WILLOW concerns the actor Gavan O’Herhily (he passed away only 6 months ago) who played the roll of Airk Thaughbae.

    One of O’Herhily’s earliest roles was in the 1970’s tv series HAPPY DAYS. He played Chuck Cunningham, older brother of Richie Cunningham, for a total of seven episodes in the first season.

    The character of Richie Cunningham in HAPPY DAYS was of course played by Ron Howard, the director of WILLOW.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: BLOGATHON… The Last of the Posts of the Wilhelm Scream Blogathon – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more·

  3. Joanne Whalley was/is bonkers divine. Her eyes mesmerised me. But not only did I love her but I adored this film. Still do. It’s so much fun, a truly entertaining fantasy that still to this day has me and the good lady quoting it.

    “Not a WOMAN!”
    “Stupid Daikini”
    “Meet Lug!”
    “Wanna breed?”
    “Concentrate Willow” oh course in a goats voice. lol
    “He’s going back to the village!!” “Ignore the bird!”
    “The bones have spoken”
    “BEEEER” in a high pitch sound.

    There’s probably loads more. Willow family is so cute. When his wife gives him a cut of her hair, oh it get’s me every time. Looks the other way as I wipe a tear away. LOL.

    PS If ever I’m feeling down I can quite happily sit through those non-stop wilhelm scream compilations LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    • Whalley is a very good actor. Have you seen Kill Me Again, with Kilmer? She was a great femme fatale. She was also surprisingly good as Scarlett O’Hara in the miniseries Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind (the miniseries wasn’t very good, though).

      Liked by 2 people

      • You know what I don’t think I that I have!! Looking back on the title I recall I know it but not sure if I’ve actually seen it. Certainly should of, a good 80s one to add and then tick off the list. Cheers EB
        Big fav JW’s are (the underrated) The Man Who Knew Too Little with Bill Murray and the cheeky Scandal. Both I’d like to see again one day soon.
        The Scarlett – Gone with the wind sequel had completely past me by!!!

        Liked by 2 people

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