Netflix has been a household name for years, from when it used to mail DVDs to your front door to the corporate overlords it is now. Because of this success, several other streaming services have hit the market, giving Netflix some competition. Lately, Netflix has raised some outrage from long-term customers by canceling several animated series they promised the public. Such as the “Wings of Fire” animated series based on the books by the same name and the “Bone” series, a fantasy graphic novel.
But Netflix assured us that we would get something new and mystical this October. They promised “Wendell & Wild,” a stop-motion horror comedy film directed by Henry Selick with a screenplay written by both him and Jordan Peele. It is an inventive work by Selick, whose last feature film was the cult-hit “Coraline,” and Peele, who is pioneering a new form of horror that discusses racism. Peele’s directorial debut, “Get Out,” weaved social commentary on the systematic racism present in America into a compelling horror/comedy film.
Many people who are fans of Peele’s work were excited to see he was working on “Wendell & Wild,” especially since a critical part of “Wendell & Wild” is that it is telling a story with a young Black girl as the main character. What Netflix promised sounded too good to be true, and after watching “Wendell & Wild,” it was.
The public eagerly awaited “Wendell & Wild” because of a comment made by Tim Burton, famously known in the gothic horror genre and stop-motion films. The filmmaker was confronted about his limited diversity in casting, and his response was to complain about forced diversity. Even today, after working on 26 feature films, there are only two people of color in his films, and both are antagonists. And in “Wendell & Wild,” the cast is filled with people of color, making it stand alone among the sea of Burton-like films.
The cast list includes Lyric Ross as Katherine “Kat” Koniqua Elliot, Keegan-Michael Key as Wendell, Jordan Peele as Wild, Angela Bassett as Sister Helley, James Hong as Father Best, Ving Rhames as Buffalo Belzer and Sam Zelaya as Raúl Cocolotl. This is my main issue with the movie — there are too many characters. Many are not well-developed and exist only to play on character tropes. Characters are relevant for only minutes before another character pops into the story.
As for the actual story of “Wendell & Wild,” it is overcrowded and confusing. There is a commentary on the private prison system in America, towns falling into ruin, demons and magic. All in only an hour and 40 minutes. And the climax is over in only 10 of those minutes. The tone varies wildly from scene to scene. For example, in the finale of the movie, the magic that reanimates Kat’s parents has run out meaning they are pretty much dying again.
During this, Wendell and Wild interject and say that her parents will have VIP tickets to their dream fair, an amusement park for the souls of the dead. Building their dream fair was Wendell and Wild’s goal throughout the movie, but for them to bring it up again during the movie's emotional climax made the scene feel cheap. It causes the characters in the emotional scene to laugh out of nowhere when they should be crying. All in all, “Wendell & Wild” was overambitious, and it shows in the final product.