Movie Review TagHenry Selick’s Wendell and Wild puts the “ooh” back in “boo.” At once morbid and magical, made out of skeleton bones and stop-motion clay, it is a wholly unique concoction that takes us on a roller coaster ride through the fiery pits of hell.

This Netflix animated film is not a cartoon like Frozen or The Lion King. Rather, in the mode of Selick’s previous features Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s a demonic adventure that tests the limits of what you can put into a kid’s movie. No one goes into a Selick production expecting Pixar, but this story of a girl who loses her parents is especially heavy on the adult themes, as well as the gothic imagery. If you thought Coraline‘s descent into wonderland was creepy, wait till you see Kat’s (Lyric Ross) descent into Satan’s nose.

The story wastes no time getting to the icky stuff as it introduces Kat, a young girl who is still recovering from her parents’ death in a car accident. You can feel the pain coursing through her veins as she deals with loss, regret and piles of homework. Her only chance at escape is to call Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Joran Peele), two demons who live like slaves. Armed with a tube of cream they stole from their elder demon father (Ving Rhames), they arrive on earth with the hopes of building a theme park and bringing Kat’s parents back to life. It doesn’t work out that way, though, since they must first do the bidding of the school’s principal Bests (James Hong), who is beholden to the corporation that killed Kat’s parents.

You can certainly see Peele’s influence here, from the banter to the social commentary to the fight between Kat and a company of bigots. But the style is all Selick, his characters sporting goth outfits and wide, obsidian eyes. The story doesn’t go too deep, but it’s imaginative and macabre and packed with visceral delights. Like most Selick films, it piles on creatures that visually express what it’s like to be a kid who doesn’t fit-in at school. Kat’s bullies are a collection of shadows, while the two hellions are made to look like Key and Peele if they had been shot through Snapchat’s “distortion” filter.

It’s the characters that make Selick’s work so unique. There are ghosts the size of dinosaurs, a horse covered in slime, and a group of nuns that run and jump. One of the film’s best creatures is a bear that looks like a giant piece of cotton candy. Wendell and Wild is a blend of monsters and sight gags all wrapped up in a story that argues for inclusion and the power of community to get us through dark, troubling times. It may not come together in a way that holds up–the third act tries to cram in a twist, a war between students and mummies, and a lesson on why humans should never face their demons alone, but it does make for quite the carnival attraction, which you’ll want to watch again and again.
























































































































































































































































































































































































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