“Wendell & Wild”

It’s the artistry in the stop-motion animation that makes “Wendell & Wild” one of the more interesting films of the year despite its often-flat storytelling. There are a few too many elements that don’t work, but the film’s unique look, celebration of diversity, and offbeat style are all things to admire.

Featuring an unusually dark story, co-writer and director Henry Selick‘s film is a macabre tale about Kat (voice of Lyric Ross), a teenage girl who has suffered from intense grief and shame since she was a child. Kat blames herself for the tragic car accident that claimed the life of her parents years earlier. She has been in trouble most of her life, and now she is being sent away to a reform school for problem girls.

While there, a mysterious skeleton-shaped mark suddenly appears on Kat’s body, which alerts two mischievous demon brothers named Wendell (voice of Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (voice of Jordan Peele) that she is their Hell Maiden. The siblings appear to Kat in a dream, where they promise to bring back her parents if she will summon them into her world. She obliges, and the trio cause a whole lot of trouble in the Land of the Living.

Making a deal with demons isn’t the type of storyline you’d typically find in a family-friendly animated film, and this is one is made with older kids in mind. It’s scary and intense at times, especially for little ones, and deals with some heavy themes like grief, shame, and death. The onscreen representation of race and gender identity is refreshing, and story is creative, original, and oh-so-spooky.

The film suffers from clunky, strained voice performances, and the plot is overstuffed and sloppy. It has a goofy Saturday morning cartoon vibe that feels out of place, which gives an overall disconnected feeling between the film and its audience. Still, the characters are so unconventional and the animation is so impressive that “Wendell & Wild” should be celebrated for its uniqueness, if nothing else.

By: Louisa Moore

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