Wendell & Wild Review

Monkey Paw Productions is the production company of Jordan Peele the actor/director of such films as Get Out, Us android past summer hit sci-fi horror film Nope. Peele has teamed up with Henry Selick, the filmmaker behind Coraline, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach. He’s a stop-motion animation specialist. This team-up between these two filmmakers makes for an interesting pair on Wendell & Wild.

Kat Elliot (Lyric Ross) is a young girl without a care in the world. She has two loving parents who own a brewery in Rust Bank, a nice town. While traveling one night Kat Screams causing her father to crash their car. Her parents end up dying. Causing Kat to become an orphan. After bouncing around at foster homes and getting in trouble with the law she eventually gets sent to an all-girls school in her old hometown of Rust Bank. When she returned home she noticed that her town had gone to hell. An enigmatic company called Klax Korp has taken over the town for its own nefarious reasons. A lot of people are involved in this conspiracy including two demons Wendell & Wild (Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele)

The combination of Peele and Selick has created a multilayered storyline of arson, corruption, and bringing people back from the dead. There are political undertones involving the prison system in our country and the homicide of people involved in covering up all of this. This story is well thought out, a little too thought out. There are a lot of moving parts involved in this story. Based on the unpublished book by Selick you can tell he has a lot to say about various hot-button topics in our country. 

With any animated movie, hand-drawn, computer, or stop motion a key to its success is the voice-over cast. With Key and Peele heading up this cast as the two mischievous demons, they have gotten off to a great start. Along with them are Ving Rhames as their father Buffalo Belzer the leader of the demon realm, and Angela Bassett as Sister Helley a nun at the school to which Ross’s character was sent. She is a friend and confidant to Ross’s character. James Hong plays Father Bests, the head of the school. He has a pact with the Klax Korp people which could lead to trouble for everybody at the school and town.

As the voice cast is very important to an animated film, so is the style in which the director chooses to make the movie. Selick has a history of making stop-motion animated films so it’s a no-brainer he chose to make another one in this format. Caroline was his last one back in 2009 so he’s been working on this one for a while. Since Caroline stop motion animation has come a long way. Laika has revolutionized this form of animation. Films like Kubu and the Two Strings look amazing and their films have garnered a lot of awards consideration in recent years. This one even though not a Laika film looks incredible. It has layers on top of layers of animation. They mix puppetry with computer animation which gives it a more realistic look. The animation in this film is some of the best in any film all year. It’s def a frontrunner for the animated feature this year at the Academy Awards.

Peele and company like to tell diverse kinds of stories championing inner-city or urban stories. So this one by Selick is right up his alley. He gets to work with actors and actresses who have a similar sense of wanting to work with reverse filmmakers. So this is a good team all the way around. The animation proves this because they are mostly reverse characters of Blacks, Latinos, and Asians. These diversities are mixed in well with the story including the fanatical nature of the movie goes towards in the second half. It’s pretty cool to see the mix of genres in this film.

I can see this movie not being for everybody. This type of animation is a bit different and not easily accessible. The story is a lot of fun and has a lot to say about loss and recovery as well as other political undertones going on in the country. Peele and Selick add these hot-button topics to make the script/plot more interesting to follow along with. The acting by the entire cast was great but the title characters of Wendell & Wild were played brilliantly by Key and Peele. You could tell they were having a blast playing these roles. Ross as the lead character, Ket, was a revelation to me. Her character was full of emotion and interesting traits. Her whole vibe was cool. I loved the design of her character by the animators as well. The key, no pun intended, to this film is the stop-motion animation. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and has a such great layering of computer graphics and stop motion. This is definitely a contender for best-animated feature at the Academy Awards come next year. I love it!

4 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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