Wendell & Wild

Posted on October 27, 2022 at 5:49 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic material, violence, substance use and brief strong language.
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Fantasy substance use
Violence/ Scariness: Creepy horror-style violence, sad death of parents, zombies, demons, underworld, some grisly images
Diversity Issues: Race, gender, trans, and disability inclusion, negative portrayal of religious figures
Date Released to Theaters: October 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Netflix
Henry Selick, master of the macabre and of stop motion animation (“Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “James and the Giant Peach”) has produced another Halloween-ish delight. The movie is as visually stunning and deliciously creepy as we have come to hope for from Selick but the story is not as strong as his Neil Gaiman/Roald Dahl/Tim Burton collaborations, even though it is co-written with Jordan Peele, who co-stars with his “Key and Peele” collaborator Keegan-Michael Key. But it does have a brave young heroine (Lyric Ross as Kat), wildly imaginative visuals that reward a second and third viewing, and some nicely satisfying twists. It is also a welcome animated film with a cast that bridges racial, gender, and disability diversity.

Like Coraline, Kat is a brave girl with instinctive integrity, though something of a loner. We first see her as an eight-year-old, with her loving parents, who own a successful brewery her father describes as “the heart of” their town, Rust Bank. When we first see her parents, they are turning down an offer to buy the brewery after a successful fund-raiser for the local public library, where her mother works. On the way home, their car runs off a bridge. Kat’s parents save her, but cannot save themselves. And she blames herself.

Meanwhile, in the underworld, souls are sent to The Scream Fair,” a ghostly un-amusement park located on the belly of a gigantic devilish guy named Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames). His human-sized sons, Wendell (Key) and Wild (Peele) are ordered to spread Handsome hair cream on Buffalo’s head to re-grow his hair. They discover that the cream has some special properties. It tingles their tummies. It gives them a vision of a “hellmaiden.” And it brings dead things back to life.

Five years later, after getting into trouble several times, Kat is sent to a Catholic boarding school bask in Rust Bank. Now with green hair, pierced eyebrow, and a lot of attitude, she insists she has no interest in the offers of friendship from the other students, including “prize poodle” and alpha girl Siobhan Klaxon (Tamara Smart), who has a pet baby goat and wants to call Kat “KK,” and trans boy Raul (Sam Zelaya). “I don’t do friends. Bad things happen to people I’m close to….They die.”

Wendell and Wild dream of building their own, much bette amusement park. Buffalo calls them insurrectionists and sends them to prison. Their only hope is to escape the underworld with the assistance of a hellmaiden. Conveniently, though she does not know it yet, one named Kat has just arrived in Rust Bank, and they have something she wants more than anything…a way to bring her parents back from the dead.

It turns out there is another hell maiden at the school. When she finds that Wendell and Wild have a more destructive plan, Kat learns to accept help from unexpected sources.

It is…strange. The various pieces do not always work together. But it is fascinating to watch, with details that reward repeated viewings and a reassuringly warm heart.

Parents should know that this movie includes creepy and sometimes grisly themes and images including the underworld and demoons, zombies, the dead brought back to life, sad death of parents, corruption including members of the church, brief strong language and fantasy substance abuse.

Family discussion: Why do people want to make money from prisons? Why did Wendell and Wild want to make an amusement park?

If you like this, try: “Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice,” “ParaNorman,” and “James and the Giant Peach”

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Contest: James and the Giant Peach on Blu-Ray

Posted on July 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

This is a treat. Before he made “Coraline,” director Henry Selick made the enchanting “James and the Giant Peach,” based on Roald Dahl’s classic book and featuring the voices of Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, and “Frazier’s” Jane Leaves.

JamesAndGiantPeachSEBluray.jpg

It’s now out on eye-popping Blu-Ray for the first time, and each one includes a DVD as well. Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with James in the subject line and tell me your family’s favorite Roald Dahl book. I will pick three lucky winners on August 7.

NOTE: Prizes provided by Disney. All views are my own.

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James and the Giant Peach

Posted on January 20, 2003 at 4:01 pm

This movie may be too scary for kids under six, but older children and their families, particularly fans of the Roald Dahl book, will love this spectacular musical fantasy from Tim Burton and Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”).
James has a blissful life with loving parents until they are both killed by a rhinoceros. He then goes to live with his horribly mean aunts, until a mysterious stranger brings him a bag of magical crocodile tongues.
James trips and spills them on the ground, near a tree that then grows a giant peach. When James climbs inside, he meets a collection of human-sized insects, including the lovely Polish-accented spider (voice of Susan Sarandon) and violin-playing grasshopper (voice of Simon Callow). The peach takes off, and, tethered to 300 seagulls and flies to New York.
Exquisite stop-motion claymation, computer animation, and special effects combine to create real movie magic and an instant classic.
Kids who love Dahl will also enjoy the films of his other books, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Witches” and Children will also enjoy Dahl’s “Matilda,” another story of a child overcoming cruel adults.

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