I found out about this film after watching The Curse of Bridge Hollow for Halloween. That should be obvious though really. Why else would I have chosen to watch a Marlon Wayans film instead of animation directed by Henry Selick. After all, he’s responsible for two of my favourite animated films. What a legend.
It’s been 13 years since Henry Selick last directed a feature film. That film was Coraline and was an absolute delight. After the 2009 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, Selick felt stop-motion animation had become so smooth that it was indistinguishable from computer animation, defeating some of the purpose. With Wendell and Wild, he allowed flaws and used pretty much exactly the same techniques as he did for Coraline.
These are decisions that have paid off because Wendell and Wild is a visual feast. Parts of the film use cutout animation and it’s absolutely beautiful. It has that classic Selick feel and is a great new addition to his filmography. It will fit in perfectly with his other horror-adjacent animated films. The characters and world he builds here are just perfect. He has such a unique point of view and I loved sharing it for a bit.
The story is based on an unpublished book by Selick and Clay McLeod Chapman. The screenplay was co-written by Jordan Peele who also provides the voice for one of the title characters. Despite this meeting of two great minds, I have to admit that I found the story lacking in some areas. It’s not bad in any way but I would have liked more in places. Although, it’s a very good story that does ask important questions about society.
We are introduced to young Kat Elliot on the night her parents die. The next time we see her, Kat is still carrying the guilt of their loss and has been through some tough times. She’s been pushed through the care system and correctional facilities. When she finds herself linked to two hell demons, Kat becomes embroiled in a plot that has huge consequences for her town.
I liked Kat but do have to admit she doesn’t make as much of an impression as she should. She’s great but no Coraline. It’s probably not fair because she has to compete with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key as the titular duo. As expected, they bounce off each other and are the stars of the show.
Wendell and Wild is a great film and one of the best looking animated films I’ve seen in ages. It’s so close to being perfect. The only real problem is that the story is a tad messy. It’s ambitious but maybe a bit more than it should have been. The story doesn’t quite know which direction it’s meant to go in. The serious tone and the humour don’t quite meld together. Still, it’s a film I’d happily watch again.