"Wendell & Wild:" The Collaboration of the Decade
One of this year's most anticipated releases was easily, Wendell & Wild from the legendary stop-motion director, Henry Selick. With a career that includes The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, needless to say standards were high for his next project, especially since it would be a collaboration with Jordan Peele. So did this highly anticipated film deliver...?
Out of all the films that were touring the festival circuit this year, Wendell & Wild was the feature I was most looking forward to seeing. I'm an absolute sucker for claymation, Jordan Peele, and Henry Selick, so on paper this seemed like it would be the perfect movie for me. The concept art looked incredible, and the storybook art style reminded me of one of my favorite animated films, Coraline.
First things first, Wendell & Wild is a beautifully made film in terms of visuals. From the character designs to the lighting, the movie is practically overflowing with creativity. It's an absolute feast for the eyes. Peter Sorg's cinematography makes the production design really shine through and the film has a great soundtrack by Bruno Coulais, who also composed the iconic score for Coraline and Wolfwalkers. Producer, Jordan Peele's style of horror pairs very nicely with Selick's animation style and writing. I certainly hope this isn't the last collaboration we see from the pair. The film also has a commendable amount of representation. Any character that doesn't need to be white, isn't. It's a beautiful thing to show to the next generation of children watching animated films, and it makes me so happy to think of the young people of color who will get to see themselves showcased in these characters. There is even a transgender character named Raúl, which is the first time I've seen a trans character in a stop-motion film. All the voice actors nail their roles, especially James Hong, Angela Bassett, and lead actress, Lyric Ross. The main character, Kat is a badass, obnoxious, yet endearing girl that you can't help but root for, and her design of green poofy hair with strappy black boots is a perfect match for her personality. In terms of writing, the characters are probably the best part of Wendell & Wild. Everything is thoroughly cartoony and imaginative.
However, while the design and visual aspects of Wendell & Wild are top notch, I couldn't help but feel like the writing was lacking. I suppose "lacking" isn't the right word because the main problem with the story is that there's simply too much of it. While there are aspects of the script that I appreciate very much, it felt like there were 10 separate plots in Wendell & Wild that made it difficult to follow the story. I feel like there definitely could've been more world building instead of adding on more subplots. I commend the film for dealing with loss, fitting in, and authority, I just wish more attention was given to those aspects of the story. Easily one of the most charming aspects of Wendell & Wild is the inclusion of trans character, Raúl, and I feel like his potential as a character was squandered the same was Finn's was in Star Wars.
Wendell & Wild is one of Henry Selick and Jordan Peele's weaker films for both of them respectively, but it shows a lot of promise for them as collaborators. It might not be technically perfect like Coraline, or be as compelling as Peele's other films, however it's one of the most original films of the year, and makes me excited to see what the two creative forces produce next.