It's quite simple to overlook Wendell & Wild's complicated plot and herky-jerky storytelling because it brings together such an appealingly varied assortment of parts and pieces.
The stop-motion maestro Henry Selick's animated horror-comedy adventure, which made its Netflix debut this week, is his first feature film since the critically acclaimed "Coraline" (2009).
The "Key & Peele" comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the latter of whom has grown to be one of the best horror filmmakers, as well as "This Is Us" alum Lyric Ross, who plays the movie's young protagonist Kat Elliot, provide voice work for the demonic but largely benign characters that bear their names.
One of Pablo Lobato's character designs that stands out above the rest is the green-haired Kat.
Her parents, who own the well-known Rust Bank Brewery and are refusing to sell it to a business that wants to convert it into a jail, are introduced to us before she is.
Delroy Elliot (Gary Gatewood) tells his wife Wilma, "I told 'em, 'More beer, less prisoners (Gabrielle Dennis).
Soon after, we observe the couple travelling as young Kat is in the back seat during a stormy and gloomy night. Wilma frees Kat before she and her husband plunge to the bottom in front of the small girl after their car goes over a bridge and into the lake below.
Years later, Kat, who holds herself responsible for what occurred, is returning to the now-depressed town of Rust Bank to enrol in the Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls. While there, she is more than happy to cause a stir by playing her dad's beloved boombox, the Cyclops, which features a large speaker that is eerily painted to resemble an eye.
She is approached by a gang of girls lead by Siobhan (Tamara Smart, "A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting") who suggests she take the name "KK" in order to start over again.
She does not cherish it.
She saves one of the girls from a falling brick a short while later, earning an exuberant hug in return.
She does not cherish it.
She takes to Raul (Sam Zelaya), the only boy at the school, more than she does to the girls, despite her first suspicion that he was the one who built the brick.
She discovers that because she is a so-called Hellmaiden, she has ties to the underworld, specifically to Wendell (Key) and Wild, his younger brother. They see in her an opportunity to fulfil their aspirations of escaping their controlling father Buffalo Belzer, the Ruler of the Scream Faire (Ving Rhames, "Pulp Fiction"), and building their own, less frightful amusement park.
(You can't help but wonder when Buffalo Belzer will talk about "the meats" because Rames' voice is so recognisably familiar from all of those Arby's commercials.)
Then there is Irmgard (Maxine Peake) and Lane Klaxton's (David Harewood) continuous plot to seize control of the community and establish Klax Korp, a sizable private jail.
With an abundance of characters, "Wendell & Wild" also features Father Bests, the school's headmaster (James Hong, "Kung Fu Panda"), who has his own agenda, Marianna, Raul's hard-working single mother (Natalie Martinez), a town councilwoman, Sister Helley, a nun at the school (Angela Bassett, "BoJack Horseman"), who has secrets and has feelings for Kat, and Manberg, the
It's a little difficult to become emotionally immersed in the movie's tale aspects beyond the bare desire for Kat to have a happy ending.
The stop-motion work makes "Wendell & Wild" more fluid and makes recommending it easier. This stop-motion movie has the "well, how did they do THAT?" appeal that many stop-motion movies have, and it makes you realise once more how much time and effort must have been put into making so many of the sequences work.
Even though it's great to see Key and Peele working together again after multiple seasons of the entertaining Key & Peele and their appearance in the 2016 action comedy "Keanu," they only manage to crack a few smiles while voicing characters that are greatly exaggerated versions of themselves. However, it is amusing when they are high on their personal supply of a hair product that has the ability to bring the dead back to life.
More crucially, Ross, who played the adoptive Deja Pearson on the aforementioned popular NBC drama series, gives KK, er, Kat a sense of assurance as well as a genuine fragility.
Even though this isn't Selick's best work, it's good to have him back in the director's chair after "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach."
There is enough creativity and wildness in "Wendell & Wild" to make it worthwhile.