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Movie Review

In 1971, Bruce Davison starred as a mousy guy who took revenge on his bullying boss with the help of ravenous rats. Davison appears in the new Willard in still photos of the title character’s deceased dad. It’s one of several homages to the original film and its 1972 sequel, Ben. But aside from those moments, the remake leads viewers through a wearisome maze without any cheese at the end.

While caring for his feeble mom, Willard tries to rid their home of vermin, only to develop a soft spot for a smart white rat he calls Socrates. But the alpha male of the colony is Ben, a huge critter who grows jealous of Willard’s favoritism toward Socrates. After causing mischief and several fatalities (Willard’s mother, his evil employer and a house cat get consumed by swarms of rodents), Ben and his "rat pack" embark on one final assault ... against Willard.

The dialogue includes profanities and one f-word, mainly from Willard’s insulting boss (who meets his end while accessing Internet porn). It’s implied that Willard’s dad slit his wrists, an act the son starts to copy. There’s some blood and violence, but Willard is more gross and unsettling than gory or scary. Glover’s hero is a creepy cross between George McFly and Norman Bates which, especially post-Columbine, makes it hard to root for him for long. He’s a victim ready to snap. His boss may be the main target, but we’re conditioned now to expect collateral damage when outcasts lash out.

The film, like Glover’s performance, starts out intriguingly quirky, then unravels into a pitiful, manic mess. Of all the reasons for teens to avoid Willard, that may be reason enough.

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Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Haring





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Bob Smithouser

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