“Wendell and Wild” is Uniquely Average


“Wendell and Wild” was released this past October with a star-studded cast. (Courtesy of Instagram)

“Wendell and Wild” is the perfect film for my little cousins. No, this is not a backhanded compliment of the film, but a statement I believe wholeheartedly. With Netflix’s new comedy-fantasy hybrid, kids in the latter years of elementary school are in for a real treat. 

However, readers of The Fordham Ram don’t fit this demographic. 

To put a reader-focused opinion on the film is to say that it’s colorful and entertaining in pockets, but generally unsatisfying. 

“Wendell and Wild” tells the story of a teenager named Kat, who is mourning the death of her parents and living with her own internal demons, Wendell and Wild. The two are played by Jordan Peele and his long-time comedy partner, Keegan-Michael Key. The demons, who are desperate to get out of their current life in the underworld and onto Earth, attempt to initiate a trade to revive her parents, where they run into a slew of obstacles that complicate the process. 

Out of the creative mind of Henry Selick, the genius behind films well worth anyone’s time, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline,” “Wendell” falls considerably short of both these. The iconic melancholic atmosphere of the former and the personal horror story that is the latter allow these films to entertain a much broader audience than Selick’s most recent venture. 

It appears that Selick has changed his animation style with this film as well. In a look that appears more similar to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” than any of his previous films, simply by the optics of the animation. 

Selick co-writes this with Jordan Peele, a fitting partner in this screenplay that seeks to blend comedy with fantasy. While “Wendell” is nothing compared to Peele’s directorial work as far as the intensity of its horror, this partnership still makes sense. 

The initial novel child-like fantasy energy of the film is engaging at first, but quickly wears off, and while the plot is full of insightful commentary on ideas of identity, family and even the corruption of the private prison system, I don’t have faith to say it would substantially entertain audiences who have graduated high school. 

The film itself is actually very complicated and scattered. Many subplots are seemingly unnecessarily implemented. I can only help but wonder what a more streamlined story by Selick and Peele would look like, one that focuses on the three main characters would surely manage to be a more digestible film. Considering the film’s intriguing premise, probably an even more entertaining one. 

The silver linings are there, though. 

First of all, it’s crucial that the producers and casting directors of this film get a shoutout for Black representation, not only in the characters but the actors. In addition to Key and Peele, Angela Bassett, Ving Rhames and newcomer Lyric Ross complete the all-Black cast of top-billed actors. 

Even though they’re outside of their typical Comedy Central confines, Key and Peele will still produce the odd laugh, even in unfamiliar territory. Rhames plays his typical macho character as Wendell and Wild’s father in a comedic fashion as well. 

Peter Sorg’s cinematography shines too, producing an array of ever-transforming colorful tones that stay consistent with the film’s consistent change in setting. 

“Wendell and Wild” is all over the place, and even with all of its unique qualities, it is still just an average and underwhelming film.