Wendell & Wild

October 21st, 2022




AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)

Wendell & Wild is the newest stop-motion animated experience from director Henry Selick. His films are exactly that, an experience, and each piece of art that he has made leaves an impressive impact on the history of animated films. It started with The Nightmare Before Christmas– a movie that is often miscredited to Tim Burton- followed by James and the Giant Peach– a film that beautifully brought Roald Dahl’s vision to life- followed by the brilliant and downright terrifying Coraline. This time around, Selick has teamed with horror guru Jordan Peele, prodding around in similar ground, in a story about an orphan girl that discovers she has the power to communicate with a pair of desperate demons. It truly is Selick in his element, dealing with people being raised from the dead, a singular character discovering themselves after a tragedy, characters that feel lost in the world, all of it happening in a rundown town. Wendell & Wild is another great stop-motion animated achievement, conjuring up the spirits of creativity, in what will become an instant Halloween season hit.

It’s set in the small town of Rust Bank, where Kat (Lyric Ross) lost her parents in a tragic car accident, leaving her in an orphanage outside of town, and now going back to her town to bea at the local rehabilitation school. It’s run by a priest named Father Bests (James Hong) and has a teacher by the name of Sister Helley (Angela Bassett) that just might have something in common with Kat. What was once a thriving city is now rundown, controlled by the rich, because they want to turn the community into one big private prison. The children are disillusioned, the town folk live in despair, and everything is falling apart. Below the surface lives a pair of demons named Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele), living in service to a satan-like figure named Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames), but when the duo finds a way to get to the land of the living, along with a magical cream that can bring things back to life, they might be able to offer Kat redemption for her troubled past.

What instantly strikes from Wendell & Wild is the sheer inventiveness and uniqueness of it all. The details are impeccable, from Kat’s green hair, the texture in a school uniform, the meticulous differences between the dead and the living. It’s in every frame and it’s something that never grows old. The extra details wouldn’t work entirely without a great screenplay, co-written by Selick and Peele (based on the book by Clay McLeod Chapman), and courageously capturing the humanity of animated characters. There’s a great sense of individual emotions that we see, while the subject material deals with the trauma that children can experience, the stress of finding one’s place in a lonely world, and the way life can force someone to grow up fast. It’s not just Kat as well, we see it in her new transgender friend Raul (Sam Zelaya), the perceived snob of the school Siobhan (Tamara Smart), while it also remains in the characters that come back to life, returning to a world that is not what they remember.

The themes work well and the animation is amazing, but what truly ties Wendell & Wild together are two important technical sides, which are a great score, including hits such as Living Color’s “Cult of Personality” or Bad Brains “How Low Can a Punk Get”. And the vocal performance from the collective cast. The voice work of Key and Peele feels like the duo never missed a beat- phenomenal character’s brought to life- along with Lyric Ross who proves that she’s the true embodiment of our friend who can just so happen to talk to demons from a darker realm.

Is it a movie you can take your kids to see? Not exactly, with a PG-13 rating, where some of the demons will scare, but the subject matter is universal, and teenagers will instantly fall in love. The flaws out of Wendell & Wild solely lie in the narrative structure, where the final act feels long, and is lacking in a way of wrapping it up. What can’t be complained about, however, is the sheer genius that is Henry Selick. His voice and dedication to stop-motion animation is undoubtedly unmatched and a major director in the animated world. Wendell & Wild may not have as similar of an impact as Jack Skellington or Coraline had in the animated movie history but it’s another feather in the genius animator cap for Henry Selick. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 13-years to make his next movie- But Wendell & Wild certainly know how to dig up all kinds of delights in one of the best animated movies that 2022 has to offer.


Written by: Leo Brady

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