Sunday 8 October 2023

Netflix And Chill: Wendell & Wild (2022)

Another stop-motion animated movie from director Henry Selick (who also helmed such greats as The Nightmare Before Christmas, James And The Giant Peach, and Coraline, as well as Monkeybone . . . but we don't mention Monkeybone), Wendell & Wild feels a step removed from his previous features thanks to a more diverse cast and an excuse to reunite Key and Peele onscreen (even if it's only in voice form, of course). Unfortunately, it's also not as good as most of the titles I just mentioned (except Monkeybone . . . but we don't mention Monkeybone).

Kat is a troubled teen, having blamed herself for years for the death of her parents. Moving from one place to the next, with trouble often not far away, Kat finally ends up at a school very close to the small town where she used to live in happier times. Wanting nothing more than her parents brought back to life, Kat ends up being tricked by two demons, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele), who want to enter the world of the living and try out their plan to raise the dead with some very powerful hair restorer. There's also a pair of schemers trying to keep their part in a deadly chapter in history hidden, which could become tougher when the dead start to rise, and Kat may find herself equally in danger from the undead and the living.

I'm not sure why this doesn't work as well as other Selick features, but it seems to lack something truly magical and impressive. The detailing is often as lovely as you'd expect, but there also seems to be no connective tissue between the land of the living and the land of the dead, with each one feeling like it stays in whatever snowglobe-like environment is required for each main scene. The tone is also disappointingly wobbly, neither macabre nor amusing enough, and it feels weird that Key and Peele are used here (Peele having also helped to write the screenplay) without making the most of their talents. Perhaps the problems come from the source material, it's based on a book by Selick and Clay McLeod Chapman, or maybe it needs more than one watch to pick up on more of the lovely production design and character developments. Maybe it needed a better score from Bruno Coulais to lend stronger support to the visuals. I would rewatch this, but it won't ever be too high on my list of priorities.

Ross is a very good lead, Key and Peele are a bit muted, but fun, and it's great to hear Angela Bassett, James Hong, Ving Rhames, David Harewood, and Maxine Peake in main roles, every one a great actor also able to deliver a great vocal performance. Sam Zelaya and Tamara Smart are also very good, playing two other teenagers important to the plot, alongside Seema Virdi and Ramona Young in supporting roles.

I cannot dismiss this as a bad film, and it's more entertaining and inventive than dozens of other movies aimed at younger viewers, but it's near the bottom of the pile when compared to similar stop-motion features presenting macabre elements in a child-friendly way.


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