“Wendell and Wild” Movie Review

posted November 5, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment by Sophia Clements.

Just in time for the end of Halloween season, Henry Selick’s newest movie since Coraline, “Wendell and Wild,” is out now on Netflix.

Selick, known for his stop motion movies, including the everlasting “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” produced by Tim Burton. After a 13 year hiatus, Selick is back with a creepy, fantasy, comedy stop-motion film, this one produced by master horror director, Jordan Peele.

Peele, who also plays the titular role, Wild, alongside his comedy counterpart, Keegan-Michael Key, who plays Wendell, produced the film through his film production company, Monkeypaw Productions. The company produced all three of his horror films along with the critically acclaimed Spike Lee joint, “BlacKkKlansman,” and the 2021 horror remake, “Candyman.”

“Wendell and Wild”takes inspiration from both “Coraline” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but builds its own world as we follow the main character, Kat Elliot, voiced by newcomer Lyric Ross. The film opens to Kat living a cozy life with her parents in Rust Bank (spoiler!) until they face their untimely death in a car crash where Kat is the only survivor.

This leads Kat to go down a path of rebellion and crime which eventually lands her back in Rust Bank, this time as a teenager with a lot of angst and grief on her shoulders. She blames herself for her parents’ deaths and goes through life alone, forging her own path in the world.

Once she arrives in Rust Bank at a school for girls she finds out she has powers, a mystery to her before she arrived. These powers lead her to discover the two demon brothers, Wendell and Wild, who claim to be able to help her with whatever she needs if she helps them get what they want first.

Kat must make sacrifices to get what she wants, while making new friends along the way. When she sets out to do something, she knows that she will but she goes in head first, not realizing who Wendell and Wild really are and what they’re after.

The film explores the world of Kat through the imagery that Selick is known for, while also feeling above the sphere of stop-motion. Use of shadows and magical elements really elevates the story to a different world.

The stop motion feels so fresh and original but also brings back the feelings of watching Selick’s older films over again. The character of another “Coraline” story but with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” visuals is the best way to describe “Wendell and Wild.”

One of the best aspects of the film is the diversity of its characters. A Black main character as well as a character in a wheelchair, a trans character, and characters from many different backgrounds makes this film so easily relatable to anyone.

The story is about Kat and her journey but underneath it is a social commentary on the American prison system, and the exploitation of people for money. It also touches on the foster care system and the cycle of children who go through it and end up in bad situations. These undertones are essential to understanding what Kat has gone through and are pieces of the system Kat actively fights against.

“Wendell and Wild” never mainly focuses on the two demon brothers, although they are the titular characters because the story is about the growth and development of Kat. The film watches her on her journey to overcome the grief cloud she has been in since childhood.

All of the storylines are great and interesting to follow but ultimately lead up to a convoluted conclusion that tries to solve all of its problems at once. While it succeeds in its storytelling its downfall is the rush to conclude the story within the last 15 minutes.

Overall, the story was endearing and the characters were all so lovable, besides the villains of course. While it was no “Coraline,” it certainly is worth the watch.

Rating: 4/5

Sophia Clements is a second-year majoring in communications. To contact her, email sbc6003@psu.edu.

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Sophia Clements