Adventure Animation

Brothers from Hell: A TIFF Review of ‘Wendell & Wild’

September 17, 2022Ben MK

As far as comedy duos are concerned, there are many who would argue that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele rank right up there with the likes of such icons as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. Now, seven years after the finale of their hit sketch comedy show, Key and Peele, the pair are teaming up once again — only this time, they're lending their voices and caricatured likenesses to a couple of demon brothers named Wendell and Wild, in the new animated adventure from stop-motion filmmaker Henry Selick.

Set in the fictional town of Rust Bank, the movie follows 13-year-old Kat Elliot (Lyric Ross), an orphan who lost her parents five years earlier, when their car plunged over a bridge and into the river below. It was a freak accident that Kat still blames herself for, and since then she's been trying to outrun the ghosts of her past. Little does she realize, however, that she's about to meet a couple of ghouls named Wendell (Key) and Wild (Peele), who have chosen Kat to be their Hell Maiden. Intent on escaping the underworld, where their father, Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames) has them spending their eternity in purgatory sewing hair plugs onto his big blue scalp, Wendell and Wild strike up a deal with Kat, promising that they'll resurrect her parents if she agrees to summon them into the world of the living. What they fail to take into consideration is just how feisty Kat is. And when their scheme has them all entangled in a plot by ruthless land developer Klax Korp to buy up all the real estate in Rust Bank to build a giant prison facility, they'll soon realize what their new Hell Maiden is truly capable of, as she rallies her fellow townsfolk to save their home, learning something important about herself along the way.

Also starring the voices of Angela Bassett and James Hong, the result is a long overdue and worthy followup to The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline, as Selick once again demonstrates why he's one of the genre's most gifted and unique storytellers. Make no mistake, this dark and twisted fantasy may be too scary and too intense for the littlest of viewers. However, for those familiar with Key and Peele's brand of comedy, Wendell & Wild is as kid-friendly a reunion as we're likely to get.

Wendell & Wild screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 45 min.

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