Review of YouTuber Patrick Willems’ ‘Night of the Coconut’
As some YouTube content creators have found mainstream success, many of them have attempted full-length or bigger-scale productions. These are often more ambitious than their regular output, an attempt to showcase burgeoning talent. With the pandemic having quickened the already-imminent shift to streaming being a bigger part of the entertainment landscape, I predict that in ten or fifteen years, these sorts of movies could be a thriving subgenre in their own right.
One of these efforts is Night of the Coconut, a full-length movie currently available on Nebula. It is intended as a “season finale” for a subplot that was featured in the videos of YouTuber Patrick Willems. Willems has been very upfront about the process of making the movie with updates on his YouTube channel throughout its production, including a comprehensive video about the history, development, and how the movie came to be.
The plot of the movie involves Charl (voiced by Chad Ruhle), a sentient, talking coconut with googly eyes with plans for global domination. Charl originates in another universe and seeks to control and ultimately annihilate our world the way he has many others. Willems plays a different variation of himself from the same universe as Charl. He sees himself as Charl’s ally and seeks to help him in his quest. It is eventually revealed that this Patrick incapacitated his doppelganger in our universe and hid him on a deserted island.
It seems like 2022 has been the year that the concept of the multiverse really tapped into the collective zeitgeist, demonstrated by the success of movies like Everything Everywhere All at Once and Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Night of the Coconut certainly fits that trend, as well, as different iterations of Willems’ friends from across the multiverse find themselves in the center of the transpiring events.
At the center of this is Chloe (Chloe Holgate), who, as she frequently states, is also from another universe and seeks to take Charl down. She teams up with Matt (Matt Torpey), a friend and former roommate of Willems who left after being tormented by Charl. Another Chloe, this one from our universe, also allies herself with Charl, believing his efforts to be a way to earn fame and fortune.
Charl is planning a massive streaming event to captivate the world’s attention in order to destroy it, and Matt and the alternative-universe Chloe must be the ones to prevent it. They consult with Dave the Agent (Dave Wiskus, who in real life serves as CEO of Nebula), as well as cameos from other prominent YouTubers, to try to figure out a way to stop Charl once and for all.
One of the more impressive aspects is the overall production for something of this budget and scale. It generally feels more focused and effective than other comparable movies from famous YouTubers, the result of deliberate and attentive labor on the part of Willems. The performances of the actors also mostly work, with the standout being Torpey, who brings a goofy energy and deadpan commitment to his role.
Even moments I was less than enthusiastic about, such as an early musical interlude, serve as set-ups for hilarious punchlines. “Hey, what’s going on?” Patrick’s dad asks. “Oh, we’re just watching Chloe singing a song about how much she hates Charl,” his mom responds. For this, credit has to be paid to writers Jake Torpey (brother of Matt) and Michael Curran, who find the right balance and resonance for the movie’s humor.
I also generally like the music featured; the opening credits are to ’80s deep cut “Original Sin” by Pandora’s Box. The original score to the movie by Brian Metolius is even going to be available in a limited-edition vinyl pressing in partnership with legendary geek apparel company Mondo.
To a large extent, Night of the Coconut is an admirable effort, one that engages while building on the previously established tone and aesthetic of both the Charl storyline and Willems’ collective body of work thus far. However, people who haven’t been following either might have a harder time catching up. Fans will be delighted by this quirky and farcical movie; it never takes itself too seriously while never losing its sense of fun.
There are times when the low budget can be apparent, but it maintains a sense of “let’s put on a show!” Because of that, the enthusiasm of the performers and production team is infectious. For those who are curious, Night of the Coconut ultimately proves to be very worthwhile and endearing, filled with enough humor and craftsmanship that I hope it resonates not just with those who watch it, but with the broader community of online content creators as a sign of what’s possible going forward.