Review: ‘Wendell & Wild’ is a dark and cold animated ride

Just in time for Halloween comes a movie that isn’t afraid to lean into the dark, one frame at a time.

In the first five minutes of “Wendell & Wild,” our teenage heroine loses her parents in a car accident, her town is financially shattered, and she ends up in the back of a prison bus, legs shackled and handcuffed.

This is kind of cold. Director Henry Selick’s return to stop-motion animation is icy cold, from the muddy potholes in the roads to the clouds of steam rising from the characters’ mouths. His script with Jordan Peele is similarly icy, a place where alienation, backstabbing and plotlines abound.

Selick, whose previous films include “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Coraline,” has attracted an all-star lineup of actors to provide voices this time: Ving Rhames, James Hong, Angela Bassett, David Harewood and Peele, reunited with his old comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key.

Peele and Key play the main characters, a pair of mid-level, not-so-intelligent demon brothers who hope to escape the monotony in Hell by escaping to the world of the living and opening a fun fair. Unfortunately, his jokes are a bit on the inside, a bit less hysterical than intended.

They believe they’ve found their way out of hell in the form of Kat Elliott (Lyric Ross), a 13-year-old rebellious goth orphan who has green hair, pierced eyebrows, knee-high platform boots, and strapless gloves. studded fingers. . She wears a boombox and a no messing around vibe. “I have no friends,” she says. “Bad things happen to people close to me.”

It’s a dark story, with the action never far from the city’s graveyard and the coffins seemingly always open. There’s a stab at social criticism involving an ominous for-profit company that wants to build a prison so badly wants to raise the dead for city council votes, and a parochial school willing to make a deal with these demons to stay open.

Throughout is Selick’s idiosyncratic view. It takes a certain kind of macabre humor to resurrect a Catholic priest with a hair growth cream while our two demon brothers celebrate by high-fiveing ​​while the soundtrack plays “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. In many ways, this movie has the creepy “Nightmare Before Christmas” fused with the girl power of “Coraline,” but for less benefit than either.

The animation style includes hyper-realism of backgrounds and exciting details like a messy bubbling gravy pot or a rusty bulldozer to human characters who have seams on their faces and often long spindly legs. A couple of nuns look like strange fat, skeleton birds with maggots in their eyes that stagger around. The clever character designs are credited to designer Pablo Lobato.

Beneath it all is the story of one girl’s love and guilt, and an educational and court system that let her down, prompting her to resurrect her parents, but that gets lost a bit in the gross humor, The Family. Addams. Rarity level and shock-for-shock visual gags like a demonic teddy bear. For all the carefully crafted spectacle, Selick’s dying shot, shot by shot, is as overwrought as that bear.

Wendell & Wild,” a Netflix release, is rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, substance use, and brief strong language. Duration: 106 minutes. Two stars out of four.


MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly encouraged. Some materials may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13.




Mark Kennedy is at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *