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Wendell & Wild is Henry Selick’s inventive triumph – review – deadline

In 2009, it was considered almost shocking when Pixar Up tackled the subject of death in his now-classic opening sequence, a bittersweet mini-film about love and loss.

Today, after 2017 Coca and the 2020s Souland with Guillermo Del Toro Pinocchio on the horizon, it’s hard to believe it was ever thought that a commercial animated film couldn’t – or, more appropriately, should not — to deal with such dark topics. But while this door is open, Henry Selick‘s Wendell & Wild finds inventive ways to remove the veil, entering cult territory even further than ever before.

In retrospect, who would have thought that The Nightmare Before ChristmasSelick’s hilariously gothic collaboration with Tim Burton in 1993 proved to be little more than a curtain call for the director’s own weird sensibilities that led to the misunderstood flop of 2001 Monkey bone and 2009 is accepted better Carolina? Like both these films, Wendell & Wild macabre in thought and dizzying in detail, further expanding the director’s obsession with otherworlds and resulting in a relatively violent, young-adult-warped, stop-motion Halloween opus that will embarrass Fox News with its constant emphasis on inclusivity and not make it easy turn into selling Funko Pop dolls.

Co-written with Jordan Peele, whose company Monkeypaw produced, it’s quite the morality tale – and perhaps stands above Peele’s last two films, us and no, in terms of clarity. The latter’s sensibility meshes well with Selick’s — the two seem to share a fascination with fairgrounds and circuses — which means there’s a lot going on beneath the surface, too. A recent reference here is the horrors that rush into sleep Barbarian; although Wendell & Wild not at all from the same stable of shock and gore, he deals with ideas of gentrification, and his fictional city of Rust Bank reflects a neglected Detroit: without money, without work and without hope, a once-thriving rural idyll is left to crumble, its empty houses being bought up wholesale shadowy Klax Korp.

The setup is quick and to the point — in the car on the way home from a party at her father’s brewery, Kat (Lyric Ross) bites into a worm-infested taffy apple and screams, causing an accident that kills both parents. As we see in a dark play of shadows, being an orphan leads her first to a nursing home, where she is bullied, and then, after being rebuffed, to a juvenile prison.

Kat clearly has her own demons, and we duly cut to them — Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wilde (Peel), a clownish duo whose roles are so low in the underworld that they’re reduced to serving their bald, dark lord Belzer (Ving Rhames) by sprinkling hair conditioner in his hair. In between swallowing squirts of cream that causes them to stumble more than a 12 rating should allow, the pair fantasize about their personal “hell girl”—who happens to be Kat—and create their own carnival of souls in the land of the living.

Meanwhile, Kat is transferred to Rust Bank Catholic School, where, in a refreshing take on familiar grammar school styles, the girls not only no medium, but in one case also trance, a theme that is raised early and quickly forgotten. So Kat here is a mean girl who rejects the friendship of Raoul (formerly Ramona) until Wendell and Wilde visit her in a dream and promise to bring her parents back to life, eventually with the help of hair cream, which is soon revealed to have more stimulant properties than simply psychedelic.

Kat involves Raoul in a demon-summoning ritual, but it backfires when Wendell and Wilde are distracted on their way and their corpse-reanimation skills are appropriated by the Klax Korp, who plan to resurrect some of their old allies.

Despite the title and two funny but morally nuanced performances by Key and Peele, who subtly subvert their TV stage show personas, the film is really Kat’s story, and once that’s established, it’s easy to see the ending: Kat must come to terms with her trauma and, as a bonus, save the city she once loved so much.

But while that might seem obvious, Selick’s film doesn’t fall into a light-hearted mood that often really, really looks like it’s about to happen. There is an extremely important subtext here, mainly about how marginalized people fall so easily into lawlessness and how the state profits from this pattern of lawlessness, but Selick’s film stops short of killing it.

In fact, it’s surprisingly subtle for such a terrible film, and for the observant, the music can also tell its own story, as can be seen from Kat’s Indian collaborator wearing a Link Wray t-shirt (at the height of his fame in the late 50s, the guitarist was forced to hide his Shawnee roots). .

There’s also something about the needles that goes well with the sophisticated visuals on the display. In particular, the Fishbone and Living Color tracks include two songs by British punk band X Ray Spex, whose mixed-race singer Poly Styrene captured Kat’s restrained frustration with stunning perfection.


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