WENDELL & WILD (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: From the delightfully wicked minds of Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) and Jordan Peele (Nope, Us, Get Out) comes the story of Kat (Lyric Ross), a troubled teen haunted by her past, who must confront her personal demons, Wendell & Wild (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) to start a new life in her old hometown.
If Ray Harryhausen is the Godfather of stop motion animation then Henry Selick ought to be credited as the Daddy of modern day stop motion animator who makes the technology cool again with his success of The Night Before Christmas.
And well after an absence of 13 years (his last feature was Laika’s Coraline), Selick is back and he has teamed up with current in-demand filmmaker/comedian Jordan Peele (Get Out) for his latest venture based on an original story by the former.
Wendell & Wild follows Kat (Lyric Ross), a teenager who lost her parents in a car crash years back and subsequently land herself in an all-girls Catholic school where she encountered two scheming demon brothers, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele). Promising to resurrect her dead parents, the brothers tricked Kat into summoning them into the living world. In actual fact, the brothers wants to build an amusement park for the departed souls in order to escape the clutches of their father, Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames)- the head demon.
Besides the demon brothers and their magic hair cream, Wendell & Wild also involves a scheming Father (James Hong) and an evil, ruthless business couple, the Klaxons who plans to build a private prison in Kat’s dilapidated home town, Rust Bank. And of course, it’s up to Kat and her friend, Raul (Sam Zelaya) to save the day.
Wendell & Wild continues Selick’s tradition of telling spooky, dark stories and pairing it with Key and Peele’s brand of macabre humour, Selick’s fifth animated feature is genuinely delightful for the masses including young children. However, the whimsical fantasy can be a bit busy at times with plenty of characters and unexplained subplots that can filled a sequel.
Let’s see there’s a school janitor cum exorcist, Manberg, Sister Helley (Angela Bassett) who is also once a “Hell Maiden” liked Kat and a group of girls and their cute baby goat. Then there is the convoluted underworld of Buffalo Belzer and the confusing politics and conspiracy of the real world. But still, the script keeps the pacing tight enough to ease the off-beat narrative that you likely won’t feel the bumps.
Strangely, Selick’s trademark visuals seem more CG animated than stop motion this time. Don’t get us wrong, the visuals are definitely imaginative on every level but on the whole, lacks the nuance and beauty of his past efforts.
For a tale about facing your own demons, trauma and sexuality, Wendell & Wild is all round delightful from two creative minds despite some minor flaws.
Review by Linus Tee