From the outside looking in, once I heard the director of animated gems like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline was releasing a new film, I was immediately stoked. Then, when I heard he was teaming up with Jordan Peele for the project, I felt like this could truly be groundbreaking, horror animation or not. Together, the filmmakers raise some hell in the Netflix movie, Wendell & Wild.
As the story begins, a tragic car accident takes the lives of young Kat’s parents. Losing direction, she becomes a juvenile delinquent, eventually ending up at an all-girls Catholic school. Something unusual happens on her first day of classes, as she learns she’s a Hell Maiden. While everyone’s got their own demons (and Kat has more than a few), hers have names. Once she learns the process, she summons Wendell (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele) in hopes of bringing her parents back to life.
Well, that happens, along with too many other subplots that absolutely bog down the development of the story. I realize this movie is based on an unpublished novel, but it truly felt like Henry Selick was throwing darts at plot devices to see which ones would stick. The storyline definitely spins out of control, and it seems that Selick needs to rein in his storytelling at times, but this is his first film to be released since 2009… and this is definitely no Coraline.
Wendell & Wild looks and sounds great. These are absolutely the highlights of the film. I’ll watch just about any stop-motion movie once, but this one just doesn’t compare to Selick’s past opus. The freaky looking visuals are complimented by excellent soundtrack selections. Judging by her spiked boots, I suppose Kat’s got an alternative lifestyle. And this is reflected in the musical selections played throughout. She is punk rock. This movie is punk rock, while playing punk rock.
“One scream and my parents were gone…”
Kat learns the hard way that good memories can hurt the most, but she also learns that you can always change the future.
The movie’s a little long at just under two hours, but there’s just no chance this could be a kid’s movie, even though it looks like it’s marketed that way. Selick fans won’t be surprised by death and the darkness he brings, but slight swearing and overall woke themes steer this one clear of past G-rated animated classics.
As awards season ramps up, I’ve got a feeling W&W will make multiple appearances at the different shows. The voice-actors definitely deserve recognition, as they’re all top notch. Along with a mostly minority cast, the musical selections either feature rock bands with all-Black performers or at least feature Black lead singers as a tribute to Fishbone (Fun Fact: Selick once directed a music video for Fishbone).
With this release and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Netflix will definitely be hyping up its animation department for all the major awards this year. And the streamer may even win a few.
“Your memories made this monster…”