Wendell & Wild (2022)

Wendell & Wild
Director: Henry Selick
Writer: Henry Selick, Jordan Peele
Based on: Henry Selick and Clay McLeod Chapman’s book
Cast: Lyric Ross, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Angela Bassett, James Hong, Sam Zelaya, Tamara Smart, Seema Virdi, Ramona Young, Ving Rhames, Maxine Peake
Seen on: 6.11.2022

Kat (Lyric Ross) has been orphaned at a young age and is now returning to the city she and her family came from to go to a Catholic private school there. The boarding school is run by Sister Helley (Angela Bassett) together with Father Best (James Hong). Kat sticks out there like a sore thumb and that’s how she likes it. Seemingly in tune with her hardened exterior, Kat is named as a Hellmaiden. This includes getting two demons, Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele). The two are unhappy in hell and are certain they can use Kat to escape it. Kat’s fierce desire to get her parents back might just be the key.

Wendell & Wild is a visually stunning and fun film that is a pleasure to watch even as the story can’t quite keep up with the visuals.

The film poster showing Kat (Lyric Ross) strutting over a cemetery with a boombox on her shoulder. In the sky above her are Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele).

Henry Selick took his goddamn time to bring us a new movie and then it was one that I had heard literally nothing about until it was there. I don’t understand why it happened this way, but the important thing is: it is here. And it carries all of the hallmarks of Selick’s work that make it so unique. First and foremost that is the character design. And it is absolutely brilliant here, completely unlike the current animation standard.

And not only in its aesthetics, but also in its choice of diversity. Led by characters of color (voiced by actors of color), the film features Black people a lot, but also has a trans latino character, wonderful Raul (Sam Zelaya, who is trans himself). Given the obvious statement a cast of characters like this means in our world, it comes as no surprise that the film makes other political statements as well, particularly considering the prison-industrial complex.

Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Jordan Peele) having a discussion.

The film has a lot going on, not only visually, but especially plot-wise. We’ve got Kat’s family and her dealing with that, plus her settling into her new school and environment, we got the demon plot that is actually two plots – how to deal with demons and Wendell and Wild’s plans to built a fairyground (what an idea, by the way, I loved it), we’ve got the whole prison thing… it all does come together in the end, but it’s also pretty dense until then. Maybe less would have been more here.

That being said, it didn’t take away from my joy of watching the film (and listening to its punk soundtrack). I really had a lot of fun with this one and hope that Selick doesn’t need more than a decade for a next film. But even if he does – I will be waiting.

Kat (Lyric Ross) walking through her school. There are nuns around her and other students are watching her from a distance.

Summarizing: fantastic.

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