If you’ve read any of my past reviews regarding animated films, you’ll know that I’m all for originality. Disney and Pixar still hold the title of Top Dogs when it comes to animation, with Studio Ghibli being the strongest competitor behind them, but the past few years have seen the arrival of young upstarts such as Cartoon Saloon and Lord Miller Productions making really great moves to shake up the animated world. And with that, I present to you the first animated movie produced by Monkeypaw Productions.
Yes, you heard that correctly: the studio founded by Jordan Peele that is known for films like Get Out and BlacKKKlansman is now in the business of animation. And who better to recruit for their first outing than The Nightmare Before Christmas director, Henry Selick? That’s right, this is a stop motion extravaganza with Halloween-y connections.
The film focuses primarily on troubled teen Kat (Lyric Ross), who lost her parents at a young age and has not been the same since. When she enrols at a new school, she becomes entangled in a strange scheme formulated by demons Wendell & Wild, who need her help to summon them to the land of the living. In exchange though, Kat requests something that the comedic duo question whether or not they can meet her demands.
You may have noticed that there’s something that makes this stand out amongst a pretty highly saturated plethora of animated movies: a collaboration between Henry Selick and Monkeypaw Productions. A match made in heaven. What a brilliant idea that was.
First and foremost, the visuals throughout Wendell & Wild are absolutely phenomenal. Everything about how it looks is so original yet somehow so familiar, which is one of the coolest things about it. For me though, the character design itself is the best thing about its aesthetic. The puppets are both soft and rounded yet jagged and angular simultaneously, and although none of them are even slightly realistic, they are so well animated that you can’t help but feel endeared by so many of these characters.
If you look at the plot itself, it is definitely steeped in originality and contains well developed metaphors about inner demons and childhood trauma. However, it is difficult to believe that a younger audience wouldn’t be slightly confused by the complexity of the story from time to time. There is perhaps one too many plot threads, although most of them do come to a satisfying conclusion.
Putting the visuals to one side, the next biggest positive Wendell & Wild boasts is an extraordinarily talented voice cast. As an unapologetic This Is Us aficionado, it’s wonderful to see Lyric Ross being selected for some more diverse major roles, and the fact that main character Kat is portrayed as a punk is really fun. Angela Bassett is as majestic as ever, with Key & Peele bringing some much needed comedy to what could be an emotionally challenging film. In short, this is some really good casting.
Overall, this movie was just a tad too long for my liking, perhaps due to it being overly complex story-wise. Nevertheless, despite not being quite as iconic as other stop motion movies, it’s nice to see something more unique coming out of Netflix for once and I just can’t rate this any lower purely because of its almost perfect aesthetic. Oh, and the soundtrack is sick.
Wendell & Wild is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½