Rat race

The quirky Willard is a live-action cartoon of grotesqueries

MY RAT CAN EAT A WHOLE WATERMELON <br>Beloved weirdo and cult classic star Crispin Glover (Rubin &amp; Ed, The Beaver Trilogy) is perfect as the lead in a remake of the 1971 film Willard about a lonely man who turns to rats after human beings fail him.

MY RAT CAN EAT A WHOLE WATERMELON
Beloved weirdo and cult classic star Crispin Glover (Rubin & Ed, The Beaver Trilogy) is perfect as the lead in a remake of the 1971 film Willard about a lonely man who turns to rats after human beings fail him.

Willard
Starring Crispin Glover, David Parker and Laura Harring. Directed by Glen Morgan, Rated PG-13, Tinseltown.
Rated 3.0

It’s hard to imagine exactly what target audience director Glen Morgan (sometime producer of The X-Files and Millennium) was aiming for with this remake of the 1971 B-movie “classic.” Cult personality Crispin Glover has his admirers, but they’re not exactly legion. And while visually sumptuous (in a decayed post-glory sorta way), the film moves at a pace that will have most mall rats who were drawn in by the trailer (with its Empty V-styled editing as Smashing Pumpkins snarl at full volume on the soundtrack) surreptitiously playing video games on their cell phones. Add to that more references to Alfred Hitchcock than a Brian De Palma film festival, and it’s pretty obvious that Morgan either made the movie for himself or was at least aiming for the long term status of delivering up a “cult classic.”

Not saying that the movie is bad. If you’re of the crowd that appreciates Glover’s off-kilter shtick, then you’ll be pleased to find here that the “outsider artist” was pretty much born into this role (hell, back in the early ‘90s he even published a book called Rat Catching) and joins the rats in chewing up the scenery for all it’s worth.

Story wise, the flick stays pretty close to the original. Willard is a very neurotic man-child who still lives with his dying mother in the decaying family Victorian, putting in his hours as a file clerk at a factory once owned by his father, being harangued on a daily basis by his boss (his father’s former partner, who drove the man to suicide and then stole the shop). To say that Willard has no friends would be an understatement.

Then he meets Socrates, a white rat that lives in the basement. It’s love at first sight, and together they build an army … waiting for the final straw that will compel Willard to unleash a flood of CGI payback into the night. Bwa ha ha ha!

To call this one a horror film is a bit off of the mark. It’s not quite a black comedy, although it takes the inadvertent camp of the original and makes the elements intentional, without the expected broad strokes. A live-action cartoon of grotesqueries would be more accurate, an in-joke smorgasbord for fan boys, with a basic script cross-stitched with references as disparate as the aforementioned Hitchcock (from the Bernard Herrman-inspired staccato soundtrack to rats popping up one-by-one on the line-of-vision of the back of a couch à la The Birds settling on a telephone line, to a final shot that literally replicates … oh, that’d be a spoiler).

We get Michael Jackson crooning "Ben" as a doomed feline named Scully (snerk) tries in vain to elude its pursuers, as well as repeated metaphors aimed at the moral decline of rat-race corporate America … not to mention the studio system of Hollywood, living in the squalor of its fading grandeur and resorting to cannibalizing nearly forgotten B-movies instead of striking off in bold, new directions. I’m not quite sure what the repeated allusions to 9/11 mean, though. This one is recommended only for fan boy (and girl) freaks like me.