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Wendell and Wild (2022)

A whopping 13 years has gone by since Henry Selick directed Coraline, easily one of the most iconic modern animated films of the past decade. Now, his hiatus has finally ended. Teaming up with horror master and comedian extraordinaire Jordan Peele, Selick has finally…FINALLY returned with his latest film Wendell and Wild

Grab your Cyclops radio and your possessed teddy bears. We’re about to head into this circus of oddities and see why it’s not simply an all-around awesome film but also a potential contender for new stop-motion classic. 



Demons and punk rock abound in this devilishly clever addition to the stop motion family. And I do mean devilishly clever. If you love gross imagery, graphic cartoon violence, morbid comedy, and deviously divine imagery celebrate! This is a movie for you!

From the get go, Selick and Peele pull no punches in showing this is a film that can go to deep, dark, twisted places. Our main character survives a deadly car crash and watches her parents drown. We follow doomed souls on their torturous journey through an amusement park of pain in the Underworld. Our main characters must then battle literal and metaphorical demons as they attempt to save an old town from the greatest evil imaginable: greed. 

So, yeah. There’s a LOT to this story, maybe too much. I won’t go into too many spoilers, but let me say this film didn’t go the direction I thought it would. At times, the story feels overinflated and a bit chaotic, but this has always been a problem with ambitious films. Even Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice tend to suffer from this. 


To achieve an otherworldly look, Selick hired caricature artist Pablo Lobato to design the characters, and boy do his illustrations shine as puppets! Are they 3D? Are they 2D? A mixture of both? Everything in the movie is either wonderfully ugly or disgustingly beautiful in the best way. And the best part is that the majority of what you see on screen was sculpted and moved by human hands. 

There's an especially fantastic scene involving Wendell and Wild's floating heads and hands (pictured below). I was completely shocked to discover this otherworldly movement mostly relied on practical effects. Just another tiny miracle in a larger dream machine. 

Macabre beauty drips like an old inkwell in this film. Wendell and Wild are dressed to a tee in their mortician suits on loan from a Victorian club. Kat is a punk rock goddess with iconic green hair, buckle boots, and eyebrow rings. Even the side characters like the nuns and the damned souls all have horrifyingly provocative and original designs. 


Now here’s something I was NOT expecting. The music is actually a blend of mixtape swagger and fairytale moodiness. Bruno Coulais (the composer for Coraline) returns to add his haunting melodies, while a mix of classic funk and rock (funk rock?) music cameos throughout the movie. This could’ve been distracting, except for one thing: the songs are awesome! The Specials, Living Color, X-Ray Spex, Hot Chocolate, and Death are just a few of the groups whose songs are featured in Wendell and Wild. 


Mostly, the characters are a familiar take on old standards. Kat (Lyric Ross) and Raul (Sam Zelaya) are your archetypical punk rock teens who unwillingly become accomplices of the titular demon brothers. Sister Helley (Angela Basset) is the tough but loveable nun with a dark past, while Father Bests (James Hong) is a disheveled priest draped in corruption. 

Left to Right: Sister Helley (Angela Basset) and Manberg (Igal Naor)

We also have an incredibly hilarious wheelchair-bound janitor character named Manberg (Igal Naor). Who I WILL NOT spoil here because he is simply too freaking wonderful! This guy had me in stitches! 

Wendell and Wild were hilariously adorable. Not side-splitting funny, just infectious. And maybe that’s because they’re played by legendary comedy duo Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele (our producer). Ambitious and sneaky, Wendell and Wild will do anything to escape their literal hell-hole, and the siblings can be riotously wicked when they choose to be. 

Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames) 

Speaking of which, we now come to easily the most spectacular character in the film: Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames). I seriously haven’t been this impressed by a blend of design, animation, and voice acting in a while. Maybe that’s because Belzer serves a dual purpose as a character and a movie set – people literally interact on, around, or with this colossal demon. Or maybe it's because his exotic visual design is so fantastic. I don't want to reveal too many details, but trust me when I say his scenes will blow you away - especially when you consider how much TLC was put into bringing this giant to life. Pure talent at its best. 


Where do I start and where do I end? Selick’s blend of ghoulish design with poetic horror is always welcoming, and Peele’s panache for awkwardly dark comedy with visceral horror is a fun team-up in animation. Sure, the story can be overstuffed, but the creators made up for this with some wonderful designs, hip music, and some inventive characters. 

Wendell and Wild is a gothic fairytale with an urban metaphor. And I truly loved it. Not the greatest film, but another stop motion gem I will gladly revisit. 

Wendell and Wild is now streaming on Netflix.