Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Wendell & Wild - Review

 Thirteen Years. It’s been thirteen years since Henry Selick last gave the world a glimpse into his imaginative and wild head with 2009’s Coraline. Thankfully, he’s back. Wendell & Wild marks a delightful return to form for a director that basically brought stop motion to the mainstream way back in the 90s. Throw in the ideas and sensibilities from the minds of Jordan Peele Keegan-Michael and the tone this film is going for can really start to become clear. 

The prospects of striding out on their own are too much for demons Wendell and Wild to resist. They enlist the help of 13-year-old Kat, a girl who’s life was stricken with tragedy when her parents died in a car accident, to summon them to the Land of the Living. The ensuing chaos and calamity ensure nothing in Kat’s life will ever be the same again.

There are a lot of ideas that Selick, Peele and Key want to center this film around. Some are tremendously suited for an animated horror film about demons, tragedy, and family. Others are surprising directions for a film of this nature to take. And yet, they all mostly work. The final twenty minutes operate at a breakneck pace to wrap all the threads, but it certainly doesn’t anything fall away where others would. It has a lot to say, and says it all, for better or worse. 

Outside of operating slightly above its weight class in terms of themes, the rest of the film is nearly flawless. The often gross, icky details of Selick’s visuals make the whole experience that much more engrossing. The character designs are tremendously weird and excellently animated. The whole film is a visual splendor, a trip into a well crafted and deeply rich world that’s worthy of exploring without the charming and earnest characters at the center of it all. 

And again, while the themes may not all connect the way they should, the story itself is still offering plenty of heartfelt moments between the strange ones. There’s a lot fo Kat to work through, and facing her own demons, both literally and figuratively, is perhaps the thread that works most effectively. 

In many ways, this is less a comeback, more a reintroduction. It feels like Selick’s other films, but it’s also some of the most striking and visually delightful animation of his career. Combining the talents of Selick’s animation with the hilarious and thoughtful minds of Key & Peele conjures up a film that feels unique, and with any luck, pushes stop motion even further into the mainstream. 

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