Stop motion still alive and kicking in ‘Wendell and Wild’


Wikimedia Commons

The cast of “Wendell and Wild,” pictured here at the movie’s premiere, features stars like Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.

There’s always that one movie from your childhood that completely and utterly traumatizes you, a movie so dark you have to wonder, “How is this for kids?” In 2009, stop-motion director Henry Selick managed to scar a whole generation with the spine-chilling movie “Coraline,” so one can only imagine what kind of horror he’d unleash if he ever decided to switch his focus to an older audience.

Well, imagine no longer, because on Oct. 28, Selick’s newest movie, “Wendell & Wild,” was released on Netflix. I’ve got to say, for a guy whose PG movie once scared me back into using a night-light, his newest PG-13 film wasn’t up to snuff.  Unlike “Coraline,” “Wendell & Wild” is a dark comedy with way too much lore and no understanding of the word subtlety.

Despite the difference in genre, the movie itself had the potential to be great and could have been better than it actually was. There’s a great dynamic between characters, the jokes are hilarious, the character designs are flawless and the villains are fun to hate. 

With so many different characters, there were bound to be a couple of side plots, and each one held a certain charm. The demon brothers’ magical hair cream, Kat’s journey to becoming a Hell Maiden, Klaxcorp’s involvement in the town’s economic decline and Sister Helley’s connection to the supernatural were all good storylines.

However, these storylines would have worked out much more smoothly if the movie were a TV series instead.  Then, the story would move at a better pace and keep characters from repeating the same thing to different people. Seriously, the demon brothers talk about their dream carnival to every other person, and the school headmaster’s whole personality revolves around getting funding for the school.

The story follows orphaned troublemaker Kat, who has been sent to a religious boarding school as part of an outreach program. The rebel teen doesn’t take the change well, especially since the school is located in her old hometown where her parents died. 

Upon her arrival, two demon brothers called Wendell and Wild get high off of their dad’s hair cream. They have a vision of their new Hell Maiden (a.k.a. Kat) and convince her to summon them in exchange for her dead parents.

Meanwhile, Kat tries to gather what she needs for her summoning while avoiding the suspicions of Sister Helley and the school’s strange janitor, Manberg, who both have dark secrets.

Overall, the movie was too ambitious. It tries to do too much with a limited amount of time, and the conclusion feels lazy and anticlimactic. I mean, an angry demon the size of King Kong shows up ready to decimate a town, only for his anger to be extinguished and for him to leave due to fatherly guilt. It’s like they just decided that having one acting antagonist wasn’t enough. 

This movie could have been better. There were so many parts that were done so well.  If the writers just could have applied the rule “show, don’t tell,” at least they would get rid of the repetitive dialogue. 

All in all, if you go into this movie expecting a good scare, prepare to be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a comfort movie with teenage angst and rebellion, trans representation, some goofy undead lackeys and a fight scene involving the entire cast, this might be the movie for you.