Wendell and Wild

Where I Watched It: Netflix

Audio Description provided by: International Digital Center

Written By: Liz gutman

Narrated By: Sri Gordon

I know most critics just hop in and do their thing, but I’m not them. I have to admit, there are moments even with terrific audio description, that i still find things where I get more depressed than excited or elated, because my inability to visually see something, or participate in the way I would have been able to a few years ago is now totally different becomes apparent in something. Here, I’m aware Wendell and Wild is a Henry Selick stop motion animation. And I’d love for the audio description community to find a way to make that not feel like a wave of depression, but there’s just no way to do that.

The funny thing is, even in the best traditional or computer animated features, I don’t quite have this same reaction. But not being able to see stop motion in all its glory, which is frequently a tireless process that goes very much underappreciated, just hits me a bit different. And, this isn’t just some new face on the scene either, it’s Henry Selick, the director of classics like A Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. I can’t quite put into words how while i was trying to enjoy the hell out of this film, I was also battling this deep realization that led to sadness that I can’t ever watch any stop motion films again. They just pass off now as regular films, like nothing special is occurring on screen, when these projects frequently take years to animate.

Here, instead of teaming up with Tim Burton, Selick has come into this adaptation with jordan Peele. I don’t know the original source material, or how heavily it focuses on private prisons, but Peele is very much an activist filmmaker (which is not a bad thing), often using his talents to bring something to light that we need to talk about. Even in his produced reboot of the slasher Candyman, Peele had something to say. Here, he has a plot to say about private prisons.

In this PG-13 film, which parents should take note of before shoving this in front of a kindergartner, a young girl loses her parents in a car accident, and becomes a child of the foster system. Eventually, she is contacted by a demonic brotherly duo, Wendell and Wild, who claim that if she can perform a ritual, they can bring her parents back to life. She’s so desperate that she chooses this option, but of course, they don’t keep their bargain, instead pairing with the bad guys to help a corporation further destroy her hometown by building a private prison.

While it’s all animated, this film features quite a bit of underworld creatures, including a devil stand in who prefers to be called Buffalo Bob (voiced by Ving Rhames), as well as many reanimated corpses, trapped demons, and thematic materials like our main girl finding out she’s a hellmaiden, and the initial car accident that kills her parents. So, this will not be for every kid. Then again, neither was Coraline, but parents took their kids anyway and just complained later about it being too scary.

i enjoyed this film as much as I could, despite it making me sad. The voice acting here is good, except I’d love to see Key and Peele not attached at the hip all the time. This made it more of a Key and Peele movie than a Henry Selick film. They did that gimmick already in Toy Story 4, we don’t need it all the time. I hope it’s not an ongoing thing for future animated works.

The biggest problem, aside from the description being unable to capture what makes stop motion special, is that the film does a rather poor job of explaining what a hellmaiden is, does, how she came to be, or much of the actual rules of hellmaiden ing. There’s some basic stuff there, but it really is just a surface look at what it could be, and not an actual definition of her character.

The audio description by Liz Gutman and Sri Gordon is fine. if you’re blind, and you’ve never seen a stop motion film before, this won’t bother you. but for those who have walked both ways, if you did enjoy the special magic of seeing stop motion, this narration can’t capture the lightning in that bottle. I don’t even know how it could. This is just like trying to play a first person shooter. It’s just never going to be the same again.

I bet Netflix is hoping for an Oscar nomination here, and they might get one. Hollywood has always loved a good stop motion and Henry Selick is at the top of this category.

Final Grade: B+

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