A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Willard" is about rats, and about a young man who likes rats and has a mysterious ability to communicate with rats. I hate rats. I also hate spiders. I hate spiders even more than rats, although rats are more dangerous, because of my anthropomorphic bias. But more of that later.
"Willard," as I discovered, isn't actually about rats at all. It is a typical Horatio Alger story ("Jed the Poorhouse Boy," if I recollect correctly, or maybe "Do and Dare, or A Brave Boy's Fight for Fortune"), with rats playing more prominent supporting roles than they customarily did in Horatio Alger (where they were limited to run-ons).
The story concerns the plight of plucky young Willard, whose father was cheated out of the family business by the evil Mr. Martin. Willard had counted on inheriting the family concern, but now finds himself a lowly stockboy, the butt of Mr. Martin's cruel jests. Willard and his mother inhabit the old family home, where his mother is bedridden with a disease brought on by the family reversals, and as he struggles to keep a roof over his dear old mother's head, the heartless Mr. Martin weaves an evil scheme to foreclose on the mortgage, tear down the old homestead, and make a killing in real estate. Bad luck on this scale inevitably makes Willard broody, so imagine his delight when he discovers that he can communicate with rats. He discovers how, but we don't. I guess you just tickle them and feed them Dog Chow and they like you.
Anyway, Willard has revenge on the evil Mr. Martin by training a bunch of rats to disrupt a garden party on the occasion of Mr. Martin's wedding anniversary. These days, when there are so few banker's daughters in runaway carriages, direct action seems to be the best policy. Willard's rats bust up the party, and Willard makes special friends of two rats who get upstairs privileges and don't have to stay in the basement. Meanwhile, his mother dies, although not of being eaten alive by rats. I wonder if they missed a bet there.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at John Sayles' brilliant "The Brother From Another Planet."