© St. Petersburg Times, published March 24, 2003
Summary: In this remake of the 1971 film of the same name, Willard (Crispin Glover) is a social outcast working at his late father's company, which was bought out by a horribly oppressive boss -- his father's former partner, Frank Martin (R. Lee Ermey). The only reason Willard still has a job at the company is because Martin promised Willard's father before his death that he would let Willard keep the job until his mother passed away. Meanwhile, Willard has found his first ever friend in a small white rat named Socrates that barely escaped being exterminated in his basement. Socrates serves as Willard's connection to at least partial sanity. As more and more rats begin to converge in the basement, Willard befriends them all and teaches them to obey his every command, using them to relieve some of his social frustrations. But things still aren't looking up for Willard. The rats have a whole lot to do with the demise of his sickly mother, his job is seriously threatened and an attention-craving rat named Ben is clamoring to steal the spotlight from Socrates.
My View: My initial thoughts were that this film was borderline psychotic. The plot was creepy to begin with, but Crispin Glover kicked that creepiness factor up a few notches. His on-screen personality was bizarre, but in a good way, and it really made the movie. The rats were great, too; giant Ben actually developed a personality as the film progressed. The ending was a big disappointment, though -- it was an unexciting resolution to a fairly suspenseful plot, and it just fizzled.
Recommendations: If you are squeamish or easily freaked out by rodents, this movie is not for you. Otherwise, the thrills and chills of Willard will provide for quite an amusing movie experience.
-- Billy Norris, 15, is in ninth grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the Times' X-Team.