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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