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Wendell and Wild: A very fun and beautifully crafted stop motion animated flick.

Henry Selick is a master of stop-motion animation. Except for his live-action misfire "Monkeybone" from 2001, his films have always had unique personalities and are always fun to watch. His most famous two films, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline" have since become cult classics and are two of the most beloved stop motion animation films ever made and also films I really love and while it may not be on par with those two films, I'm even a fan of "James and the Giant Peach" well. After thirteen years since directing his last film, he's back with a new animated film made at Netflix entitled "Wendell and Wild" and it feels great to see another film from him. While I don't know if the film is gonna go down as a cult classic like "Nightmare" and "Coraline" and I don't think the film is as good as those two, it's still a fun film to watch that has a lot of trademarks from Selick's previous films that I'm sure fans will love.

After losing her parents in a car accident at the age of eight, a teenager named Kat (Lyric Ross) is sent to an all-girls school run by Father Bests (James Hong) in her old hometown of Rust Bank which has since fallen into disrepair after the closure of her parent's root beer factory. The town is in trouble as a company called Klaxon Korp led by Lane and Ingmar Klaxon (David Harewood and Maxine Peake) has plans to tear down the remains of the town and build a prison. Meanwhile, Kat eventually gets a mark on her hand that makes her a Hell Maiden and soon gets two of her own demons named Wendell and Wild (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) who want to leave their father Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames) behind and start up their own theme park striking a deal with Kat to revive her parents using Belzer's magic hair cream to revive the dead. From there, all sorts of madness ensue.

It was nice to see Henry Selick make another film after being away for so long since "Coraline". Out of the many animation directors working today, he has a unique style and charm that can't be replicated and I really enjoyed seeing him come back to the animation scene. With that said, this is a film that I don't think is as good as some of his previous work, and most of the problems of the film are rooted in the story. This film is a bit bloated in terms of plot points and themes and has some really iffy pacing. His previous films like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" had plots that you could easily explain without hesitation whereas this film has a lot more to it than what I told you in the plot summary I wrote. This film is a bit complex with a lot going on in this film and it does bounce all over the place like a pinball. It also did take me a while to really get a firm grasp on what this film was fully about and what it was trying to say. However, when the film gets it right, it really gets it right and has some very stellar and excellently executed scenes and themes. One of the best scenes involves Kat trying to face up to her past and it's a really well-crafted moment that works. I also like that the film was a bit more mature than Selick's previous work as while it does provide similar spooks like "Coraline", it also gets a bit darker in certain areas which helps really enhance some of the themes very well. As far as the animation goes, it's easily the very best part of this film. This film is absolutely gorgeous and amazing to watch and it's quite incredible just seeing all the time and effort that went into this film up on the screen. There's a lot of attention to detail put into every shot of this film and it's so seamless to watch.

From the way the characters are designed and move around the sets they inhabit and the size and scale of certain characters in the locations, it's just a marvel to watch. The film also cleverly interweaves some cutout animation somewhat similar to how "The Nightmare Before Christmas" did and it works very effectively with how the narrative is told in capturing Kat's inner turmoil. I particularly liked the times when Selick uses limited framerate and slow motion to effectively capture certain moments in scenes. It was a very effective technique and certainly a unique one as well. This leads me into talking about the characters who also were very fun and well utilized. Despite Kat being a very embittered character and rough, I certainly didn't find her as unlikeable as I imagined she would be. She does start off cold to people, but it's understandable why she has that resentment and it helped make her an interesting protagonist. The characters at her school are also interesting which includes a transgender boy named Raúl (Sam Zelaya) who also feels isolated from others and tries to befriend her despite her initial resentment and also the daughter of the villains Sloane (Seema Virdi) who I figured would be a nasty popular girl character we see in other films but actually tries to be nice to Kat as well which was a nice change of pace. Even the faculty at the school like Father Bests and Sister Helley (Angela Basset) does have some great scenes as well, particularly the latter with Kat. The villains of the film, the Klaxons, aren't as well utilized as they could be, but I did find them funny versions of the rich businessperson trope. Then there are the titular characters themselves, Wendell and Wild and they easily steal the show. Key and Peele have been great in other animated films like "Storks" and "Toy Story 4" and they once again bring their A-game here as they both have some very funny moments and their chemistry together still is unbroken. One of the funniest moments with them involves some mallets which I dare not spoil here. It was easily one of the biggest laughs of the film.

In all, "Wendell and Wild" is a very beautifully made if flawed film. While its story is a bit bloated and messy, it's made up with some great scenes and themes, top-notch stop motion animation, and a great cast of characters. It's another amazing animated endeavor from Henry Selick and I highly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of his films. While it might not be up to speed with his classics, this film will still have some funny and wild spooks that will be remembered.


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