Willow is by far one of my favorite fantasy films of the 80s, if not my most favorite. Based on a story by George "Star Wars" Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, this Tolkien-esque tale revolves around Willow Ufgood (played by quintessential midget actor, Warwick Davis), an "Aldwin" who yearns to become a sorcerer. (For those wondering what an Aldwin is, just picture a hobbit or a midget and you’ve got it!) One day Willow’s quiet life is shattered when his children discover a human baby floating down the river in a basket. After an attack on his village, Willow takes it upon himself to get rid of the human child, but ends up becoming the child’s protector in a long journey across many lands.
During Willow’s adventure, he teams up with a ruffian and expert swordsman named Madmartigan (played with zeal by Val Kilmer). The unlikely duo end up leading a battle against an evil sorceress named Queen Bavmorda, in an attempt to protect and later rescue the aforementioned child. The baby girl is actually a princess that when older, will overthrow Queen Bavmorda. Therefore, the Queen wants to be rid of the child permanently and Willow and his friends will have none of that! In the end, good triumphs over evil and a new, peaceful kingdom is forged. Then to cap it all off, Willow returns home to have a joyful reunion with his wife and children.
Willow is an excellently made and highly imaginative film with an all star cast, amazing effects, and a wonderful musical score. Warwick Davis is perfect as a reluctant hero who takes a huge task upon himself in order to save his world. And Warwick Davis isn’t the only big-name midget actor in this film. Phil Fondacaro (star of such films as Troll, Ghoulies II, and most recently, Land of the Dead) and Bill Barty (Masters of the Universe, UHF, Legend), also star in minor roles in this film. And dare I say this, but Val Kilmer is awesome in this film! Not since Top Secret have I seen such a spirited performance from this constantly smiling thespian. (Seriously though, he freakin’ smiles all the time, like a second-rate Tom Cruise!)
The special effects in Willow still hold up fairly well in this age of CGI drenched films, with some nifty creatures including vicious rat-dogs (The hounds of choice for Queen Bavmorda’s army. These things look like The Killer Shrews on steroids!), malnourished trolls, fairies, brownies (lilliputian troublemakers that live in the forest), and a kick-ass two-headed, man-eating, fire-breathing… something-or-other! Its important to note that this film could be blamed for the current trend of CGI effects because Willow utilized some of the first computer effects for the "morphing" special effects sequences seen throughout the film. Of course, this movie was made back when the plot and acting came before the "astounding, jaw-dropping special effects" seen in today’s cinema, so the effects add to the story rather than smother it.
I can go on and on about why I love this film so much, but I think I’ve already made my point clear. This movie rules! Midgets rule! Val Kilmer ruled… back in the 80s! Willow is currently available on DVD from 20th Century Fox in a delightful Special Edition DVD package. The movie looks and sounds pristine with it’s Anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ration and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, and the DVD is packed with extras including: Audio Commentary with Warwick Davis, two "making of" featurettes, theatrical teasers and trailers, TV Spots, and more! Fans of Willow rejoice because this DVD rocks!
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