Wendell & Wild Parent Guide
This movie eschews jump scares for a tongue-in-cheek creepy vibe that will keep viewers engaged.
Parent Movie Review
When worms burst out of her candied apple, Kat (voiced by Lyric Ross) screams and her startled father drives the car off the bridge. Kat survives but filled with guilt over her parents’ deaths, she acts out. By the time she’s 13 years old, she’s already in prison until a second chance program sees her sent to a select school in her home town – Rust Bank Catholic.
Shortly after arriving at school, Kat learns that she’s a Hell Maiden with the power to bring demons to the land of the living. Desperate to see her parents again, she makes a deal with two demons, Wendell and Wild (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), to summon them to Rust Bank on the condition that they bring her parents back to life. The demon brothers are eager to escape the Underworld because they have plans of their own to build an amusement park. But when Wendell and Wild arrive and learn that money is needed to fund their dreams, they quickly become entangled with a corrupt priest and the business owners who control him. As their interests as Kat’s collide, conflict is brewing between the living and dead in Rust Bank.
The most important thing you need to know about Wendell and Wild is that the script was co-written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele, based on an unpublished novel by Clay McLeod Chapman. Selick is best known for directing dark stop motion animation features like Coraline, James and the Giant Peach, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Peele is also a director who has gained acclaim for his horror movies, Get Out, Us, and Nope. Given that pedigree, it’s natural to expect top-notch stop motion animation and a clever, scary plot from their collaboration.
And the movie delivers. Wendell and Wild creates its own weird world with an Underworld bathed in eerie colors of purple, blue and green. Rust Bank itself is grey and rusted, the picture of small town decay. The story is original, the writing often darkly comic, and the characters appealing. The movie eschews jump scares for a tongue-in-cheek creepy vibe that will keep viewers engaged.
Let me be clear, traditionally religious parents who object to comic portrayals of demons or demonic possession (or even transgender characters) will not like this film and will not want their kids to see it. For other parents, it’s a decision based on your family’s tastes and values. Do you enjoy dark comedy? Will anyone in your family be freaked out by corpses being brought back from the dead? Are you looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Whatever your family likes, remember that this movie has a PG-13 rating which should be taken seriously. Don’t show it to your six-year-old unless you want weeks of nightmares.
Parents will also want to consider the film’s negative content. There are consistently high levels of violence, including an on-screen murder. There are scenes of demons, a human swearing a vow to demons, corpses being revived, and demons suffering various tortures in the Underworld. A disturbing death scene is replayed on several occasions. The movie also has a handful of profanities and a few scenes of demons using a hallucinogen which is played for laughs.
In contrast to the potentially disturbing content, the movie provides a strong message about the power of families and the strength that comes from familial affection. It also shows the positive effect of kind, nonjudgmental peers. When Kat arrives at school, her sweetly naïve classmates welcome her with open arms, determined to help her succeed. The openness extends to a transgender classmate, an artist named Raul (Sam Zelaya), who was previously known as Ramona. Although Wendell and Wild begins as a dark angsty movie about a girl and her demons, the kindness of those around her brings the story to a surprisingly sweet ending.Directed by Henry Selick. Starring Lyric Ross, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele. Running time: 135 minutes. Theatrical release October 28, 2022. Updated October 28, 2022
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Wendell & Wild
Rating & Content Info
Why is Wendell & Wild rated PG-13? Wendell & Wild is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some thematic material, violence, substance use and brief strong language.
Violence: A vehicle containing a family crashes off a bridge: the daughter escapes but watches as the car sinks and her parents die. A girl hits another one but inadvertently saves her from a falling stone. A girl gets a shock and ends up with tooth marks on her hand. A man is bludgeoned to death with a golf club and thrown in the river: blood is briefly seen. There’s mention of an act of arson that causes death. A creature is run over and explodes but is then restored to life. A man is exhumed and his casket opened: he is brought back from the dead. There’s a painting of a child being whipped. More corpses are disinterred, some in advanced states of decay (worms etc) and are revived in their skeletal state. Worms burst out of the mouth of one of them. A demon fatally squishes some tiny birds. Two characters undergo a ritual that takes their blood, binds their hands and locks them in a mysterious chamber. A child pushes another down the stairs. Tools are slammed through the heads of revived skeletons. A woman attempts to throttle someone with handcuffs. There are scenes of demons being shocked by some kind of electrical creature and being scalded by hot coffee.
Sexual Content: One character is transgender: Raul used to be Ramona.
Profanity: There are a half-dozen swear words including two terms of deity, a couple of anatomical curse words, and two minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Two demons eat hair cream and happily hallucinate as a result.
Page last updated October 28, 2022
Wendell & Wild Parents' Guide
Private prisons are a key plot point in this film and are a controversial issue in the US and around the world. You can read more about them in the links below:
Procon.org: Private Prisons – Top 3 Pros and Cons
The Sentencing Project: Private Prisons in the United States
The Atlantic: American Slavery, Reinvented
Freedom United: Prison labor and modern slavery
Related home video titles:
For more guaranteed chills, we suggest watching Coraline. In this novel adaptation, the titular character goes through a magical door and finds a new and improved version of her home and family. There’s just one catch: the “other mother” wants to sew buttons on her eyes and steal her soul.
If you want movies in a similar style, you can try Tim Burton’s stop motion animation films. Frankenweenie is the story of a boy who brings his dog back from the dead and it comes with spooky moments along with some pretty gross bathroom humor. The Nightmare Before Christmas imagines a King of Halloween Town who wants to warm up his holiday and decides to borrow some ideas from Santa Claus. The predictably ghoulish results will cause shivers among kids and possibly wry smiles among parents anticipating the festive season. The Corpse Bride sees a man inadvertently married to a corpse and taken to the land of the dead. Despite the often unnerving imagery, this film manages to combine humor and pathos in its unusual plot.
Another dazzling stop-motion production is Kubo and the Two Strings (PG, Grade: B). Not made as a Halloween film, this movie tells the tale of Kubo, a boy with unusual gifts hunted by his evil grandfather who is determined to steal his only remaining eye. To stay safe, Kubo must find three pieces of enchanted armor. Along the way, he encounters strange creatures, plenty of danger, and has transformative adventures.