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The Willoughbys
The Willoughbys Theatrical release poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kris Pearn
Produced by
  • Brenda Gilbert
  • Luke Carroll
Screenplay by
  • Kris Pearn
  • Mark Stanleigh
Story by Kris Pearn
Narrated by Ricky Gervais
Starring
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Sebastian Brodin
Editing by
  • Fiona Toth
  • Ken Schretzmann
Studio
  • Bron Animation
  • Creative Wealth Media
Distributed by Netflix
Release date(s) April 22, 2020 (2020-04-22)
Running time 92 minutes
Country
  • Canada
  • United States
Language English

The Willoughbys is a 2020 Canadian-American computer-animated comedy film directed by Kris Pearn and co-directed by Rob Lodermeier. Based on the book of the same name by Lois Lowry, the film's screenplay was written by Pearn and Mark Stanleigh, and stars the voices of Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Seán Cullen, and Ricky Gervais, who also narrates the film.

The Willoughbys was released on Netflix on April 22, 2020.

Plot

A stray cat narrates the story of the Willoughbys, once an adventurous and loving family for generations. The present-day Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby are too enamored with each other to care for their four children: eldest son Tim, who tries to keep his siblings out of trouble; middle daughter Jane, whose beautiful singing is silenced by her parents; and the inventive but “creepy” twin boys, both named Barnaby. The parents mistreat and neglect the children, refusing to give them food and punishing them by making them sleep in a coal bin. After Jane and the twins find a baby abandoned outside, their parents kick them out of the house until they return without the child. They leave the baby, whom Tim names “Ruth”, on the doorstep of a candy factory and the owner, Commander Melanoff, takes her in.

To rid themselves of their abusive parents, the siblings send them on a “dangerous vacation” by fabricating a travel brochure of volcanoes, bears, and other hazards. As the children celebrate their freedom, a nanny hired by their parents arrives and wins over everyone but Tim. Learning about Ruth, Nanny takes the children to Melanoff's factory. After saving Ruth from the assembly line, Nanny realizes the child is safe with the loving Melanoff. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby, having survived the various danger, not wanting to go back to their children but short on funds to continue their trip, sell their house online. They also inform Nanny in a voicemail, which Tim overhears. Believing Nanny is in league with his parents, Tim reports her as a “bad nanny” to the sinister Orphan Services.

When their parents’ realtor arranges an open house, the siblings scare off potential buyers with a series of traps. Nanny frightens away one last family, convincing Tim that she means well, but Orphan Services arrives. The head agent recognizes Nanny as Linda, an orphan who never found a family who wanted her. Learning that Tim called Orphan Services, Linda leaves and Jane angrily chastises Tim before the siblings are separated and taken to foster homes. Tim keeps running away from his foster families, discovering in the process that the Willoughby mansion has been sold and demolished, and is eventually confined at the Orphan Services center. The cat finds Linda and brings her Tim's signature helmet, convincing her to reunite the children.

Linda breaks Tim out of Orphan Services and collects the siblings, and Tim apologizes to Jane. He suggests that they find their parents in order for Orphan Services to leave them alone. Linda and the siblings enlist Melanoff’s help to construct a candy-fueled dirigible to travel to "Sveetzerlünd" (a parody of Switzerland), where their parents are scaling the “unclimbable Alps”. Taking flight without Linda, Melanoff, and Ruth, the siblings reach Sveetzerlünd. They follow a trail of their mother’s yarn to the top of the mountain, where they find their parents nearly frozen to death. The siblings save them, confessing that they sent them away but hoping to reunite as a family. Unchanged, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby abandon their children and take the dirigible, but cause it to fly out of control and crash. The siblings prepare to succumb to the cold as Jane sings, but they are rescued by Ruth, Linda, and Melanoff.

Linda and Melanoff adopt Ruth and the Willoughby children, all living at the candy factory as a loving family. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby survived the dirigible crash, floating at sea, and are presumably devoured and killed by a shark. In a post-credits scene, the cat cleans himself until noticing the audience.

Voice cast

  • Will Forte as Tim Willoughby, the rational eldest child of the Willoughbys.
  • Maya Rudolph as Linda a.k.a. The Nanny, an eccentric babysitter who must look after the kids. She is also revealed to be an orphan.
  • Alessia Cara as Jane Willoughby, the fun-loving middle-child of the Willoughbys with a passion for singing.
  • Terry Crews as Commander Melanoff, the joyous, but lonely owner of a candy factory.
  • Martin Short as Walter "Father" Willoughby, the Willoughby's abusive father.
  • Jane Krakowski as Helga "Mother" Willoughby, the Willoughby's abusive mother with a love of knitting.
  • Seán Cullen as Barnaby A and Barnaby B Willoughby, the "creepy" twin boys and youngest children of the Willoughbys.
  • Ricky Gervais as The Cat, a talking blue tabby cat and narrator of the film.
  • Colleen Wheeler as Orphan Service Agent
  • Nancy Robinson as Irene Holmes
  • Kris Pearn as Spoons McGee

Soundtrack

The Willoughbys (Music from the Netflix Film)
Film score by
Released April 22, 2020
Recorded 2020
Genre Film score
Length 55:33
Label BMG Rights Management

The music in the film was composed and conducted by Mark Mothersbaugh, who previously worked with Pearn on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. The original song "I Choose" (performed by Alessia Cara, who plays the voice of Jane in the film) was released independently by Def Jam Recordings.

Score

All music composed by Mark Mothersbaugh.

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