A producer and a pharaoh find a baby on a raft in the Nile. “What an ugly kid,” the pharaoh says. “That’s funny,” says the producer. “He looked great in the rushes.” - Old movie joke
“Willow” is a fearsomely ambitious movie, but it is not fearsome, and it is not wondrous, and it is about a journey too far down a road too well-traveled by other movies. It’s a fantasy about the quest of a lovable little person and his heroic newfound friend to return a lost baby to where she belongs and to outsmart a wicked queen and kill a two-headed dragon in the process. In other words, standard stuff.
What was supposed to make “Willow” special was the quality of the production. This is a sword-and-sorcery epic produced by George Lucas, whose “Star Wars” portrayed the same kind of material in outer space, and directed by Ron Howard, whose human touch made “Cocoon” one of the best recent science-fiction movies. The special effects are by Lucas’s company, Industrial Light and Magic, which has set the standard in such matters. The budget was umpteen million dollars, and Hollywood has been hoping that the Force was definitely with this film.
Alas, even the largest budgets and the most meticulous special effects are only dead weight unless they have a story to make them move. And at the story level, “Willow” is turgid and relentlessly predictable. Not much really happens, and when it does, its pace is slowed by special effects set pieces that run on too long and seem to be recycled out of earlier movies.