The Willoughbys come from a long line of impressively mustachioed ancestors as evidenced by the numerous oil paintings lining the hallowed halls of their “old fashioned” home. But the buck stops here, apparently.
Mother (Jane Krakowski) and Father (Martin Short) Willoughby love each other passionately. They are so consumed by their marriage neither can see anything outside it. No wonder Father has such a minimal mustache – and Mother none at all! They have four kids but not a thought to spare for any of them, never mind a care. Tim (Will Forte) is the oldest, but is still a young boy, unmustached and still attached to his head protector (you and I might call it a hat). He corals the other children – the golden-voiced Jane (Alessia Cara), and twin brothers both named Barnaby (Sean Cullen) with only a single sweater between them – and makes sure the kids don’t bother their parents with things like hunger or attention. They’re cold and they’re hungry but it’s all they’ve come to expect. Until they get a brilliant idea: to send their parents on a dangerous and frankly deadly trip cleverly disguised as a second honeymoon.
So off go Mother and Father and the children celebrate – finally, as orphans, they might fill their own bellies and occupy space in the house itself rather than the coal bin. But two strange things complicate matters: a baby gets left on their doorstep, and unable to care for her, they leave baby Ruth on the doorstep of the mysterious owner of a candy factory (best home ever!), Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews), and an unqualified but well-intentioned Nanny (Maya Rudolph) arrives. While the kids are initially wary of Nanny, she soon grows on them by providing the basic necessities of life and caring whether they live or die. It sounds a bit dire, I know, but worry not, this is a very family-friendly animated film by Netflix, and the kids are resilient and crafty, and their neglect never feels so serious that it cannot be overcome.
And of course, there are plenty of childish high-jinks, lots of pranks and booby traps and Nanny catapults, and a whole rainbow candy factory montage where a baby has the time of its life while narrowly avoiding death.
Oddly, and luckily, while the children have dismissed their parents, they learn valuable lessons about family. The Willoughbys may not land on the ending you’d expect, but they get their happy ending and they have an awful lot of fun doing it. This is a pleasant surprise from Netflix and I think your young kids are really going to like it.