Everyone knows how much I love stop motion and I consider myself a big fan of director Henry Selick (Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas etc). So it gives me no joy to say I was not a fan of the director’s recent film Wendell & Wild. It is definitely the biggest disappointment of 2022 as we have waited 13 years since his last feature film, making this a big letdown.
On the positive side there are moments of fantastic animation and creativity. The lead protagonist Kat also has some sweet and endearing moments where you are rooting for her and feel her pain losing her parents in a traumatic fashion.
The problem is the narrative feels fragmented between Kat and the demon duo of Wendell and Wild (Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele). One minute you are dealing with Kat and her struggles with mean girls at school and the next you are lost on a plot involving bad people extorting slave labor from prison populations. The story wasn’t built well getting you invested in Kat and her story because it was constantly moving away from her.
I also didn’t love the animation like I thought I would. Yes all of Selick’s movies have been dark but they still had a charm to them. These characters needed to be cuter, more endearing. Kat was really the only design I liked. I particularly did not enjoy the design of Father Bests (James Hong) both before and after his demonic transformation.
The film also uses CG a lot more than Selick’s other films giving the world-building a plastic-like feel as opposed to the attention to detail and awe of usual stop motion. Someone on twitter challenged me on this saying the animation flowed very well and my response was ‘almost too well.” It didn’t have that earthy grounded feeling of stop motion that I love. Even though I know a lot of it was puppets it felt like it was from a computer.
I have seen a lot of animation fans glowing about this film, and I wish I could join them. It simply didn’t work for me and, like I said, is a big disappointment. Oh well. You win some. You lose some! Wendell & Wild is available now on Netflix so watch it and let me know what you think.
4 out of 10
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