By Jack McLaughlin
The creative minds of Jordan Peele and Henry Selick have come together in the Netflix film “Wendell & Wild.”
The film centers around Kat, a rebellious teenager released from juvie who is given a second chance in her hometown years after the unexpected death of her parents.
Meanwhile, the demon brothers Wendell and Wild escape the underworld to follow their dreams of building a fair for deceased souls.
These two stories come together when the demonic duo trick Kat into helping them with promises of bringing her parents back to life.
On top of these two stories is the wealthy Klaxon family, who are trying to demolish Kat’s hometown to build a large prison.
If that seems like a lot to put in a film under two hours, you would be correct. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most creative and entertaining watches of the year.
The strongest quality of this film is the team behind it. The distinct and creepy animation style of Henry Selick combined with the sharp writing of Jordan Peele offers a visual spectacle that has a lot to offer in its story, characters, and themes.
The animation has a beautiful stop-motion style but also incorporates other types of animation. It doesn’t look nearly as good as some of Selick’s other animated efforts, but it manages to bring his iconic style to life while also incorporating new styles that will make certain scenes much more resonating.
The titular characters Wendell and Wild reunite the comedic duo of Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. Their continuous banter and relationship work so well because of how well the actors behind these characters work on other projects together.
After focusing primarily on writing and directing the last few years, it was pleasant to see Peele return to a role that allowed his comedic side to shine.
Not only are the trio of main characters lovable, audiences will appreciate the selection of side characters to connect with.
Raúl is one of Kat’s classmates who is transgender. Not only is the character excellently written and performed, but it’s amazing to see this kind of representation in this type of media and the creative way of revealing this information in the script is something that deserves to be commended.
Something Peele often weaves into his work are messages about issues in our society that demand to be heard. The message at the end of the story about prison systems is not as subtly conveyed as his other films, but works in a film that will be watched by an audience of varying ages.
This is a message that isn’t commonly seen in animated movies, so despite its unsubtle inclusion it worked well within the story.
The film’s biggest flaw is how crowded it can feel. There are a lot of characters and storylines competing for screen time and it feels like if it had less going on it would be more balanced.
There are many intimate moments toward the middle and end that feel glossed over so the story rushes to the finale.
The Klaxon family hardly gets any screen time which is a big issue considering they’re set up to be the main antagonists. They have a handful of moments throughout that establish their intentions, but it makes the climax feel a bit empty since we don’t see or hear from the main threat very often.
Fortunately, the film doesn’t fall apart from these flaws. It holds onto its frantic energy and is able to have a satisfying ending while maintaining a strong emotional weight.
“Wendell & Wild” is the most creative film you’ll find while scrolling for something to watch on Netflix this year. It has so much heart and it’s welcoming to find something bursting with so much strange and enthusiastic energy.
B+: The magic of stop-motion stays alive.