This is a Henry Selick (Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas) directed film, so it’s going to look amazing. Add to that a screenplay co-written by Jordan Peele, with characters voiced by both him and longtime comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key, this Netflix animated feature had all the makings of a hilarious and visually stunning masterpiece.
Synopsis: The story centers around a troubled thirteen-year-old orphaned Black girl with green hair and punk rock aesthetics, named Kat (Lyric Ross). She has been paroled and released into the care of a Catholic juvenile academy. We get the sense early on that there is something special about Kat, when during her first night at the academy she falls asleep and two wacky demons named Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele) pay her a visit and offer to resurrect her dead parents in exchange for her summoning the demons to the Land of the Living.
Make no mistake, “Wendell & Wild” is the best-looking animated film I’ve seen all year. But the other half of this equation falls flat, as this movie is unintentionally unfunny, with a storyline that begins with a bang and definitely has something to say, but is also overall pretty boring.
Back to the good stuff: Not only does “Wendell & Wild” look amazing, this also may be the most inclusive animated film to date, wherein we see almost all characters are of varying diverse and/or marginalized backgrounds and orientations. In fact, a lot of the praise you may have already heard regarding this film undoubtedly focuses on the inclusion of a trans character named Raul (Sam Zelaya) who plays a significant role in the film. The praise for inclusivity here is well earned. It is so seamlessly incorporated into the story and never comes off as pandering or done for any other reason aside from representation. This aspect in particular is handled with such care that though I will not be loudly recommending this movie as a whole, there is a valid argument to be made that if a child who has never seen themselves represented in a positive way on film watches “Wendell & Wild” and feels seen, then this movie should be considered a success.
Final thought: “Wendell & Wild” does have a lot going for it. Even though the instantaneously intriguing story becomes aggressively mid, and the comedy aspect falls flat routinely, mainly due to the fact that the Wendell and Wild scenes contain the weakest moments of the film, dammit if this isn’t a great looking film with tons of well-developed non-white male characters at the helm. The sensational visuals paired with worthy characters and a creative dark fantasy edge (containing themes of regret, death and gentrification) are all notable reasons to sit through this movie however interested or uninterested you are with the content. That said, going back to the fact that none of the jokes work may be the most important statement here if you are expecting a child to sit through this.
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