The Other Side of Animation 279: Wendell & Wild Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When you look at 2022, it has been a positively popping year for stop-motion animated features. Even if I didn’t personally enjoy every single one of them, 2022 has shown how diverse and different the medium of stop-motion can be. Oink, Mad God, The House, Marcel: The Shell With Shoes On, and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. When was the last time we saw so much from this side of the medium? It’s rather depressing how poorly they have done in the past because people chose to see something else. Once again, if audience members want to see something different, unique, and in this case, made with stop-motion, then they actually, you know, need to see the films! Whether they show up in wide release, limited release, or on streaming, whatever hang-ups you have about where movies show up, you have to get over them. Seeing more of what you want means you need to actually support it when it comes out. That means that whether you saw it in its limited theatrical release or its soon-to-be home on Netflix, then you need to watch Wendell & Wild

Directed by Henry Selick and co-written by Selick and Jordan Peele, this new stop-motion feature from the master himself tells the story of a teenager named Kat Elliot, voiced by Lyric Ross. After losing her family at a young age, she has been having one heck of a life that ends up with her going to a boarding school called RBC Girls which is run by a priest named Father Bests, voiced by James Hong. While this is all going on, two demon brothers are stuck making new haircare products for their father named Wendell and Wild, voiced by the iconic Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele. They one day find out that they are essentially connected by magic and blood with Kat and find a way to use her to get their plans set in motion. Can Kat reconcile the emotional baggage she has been carrying with her while saving the day and not letting her personal demons have their way with bringing something to fruition? However, Kat’s demons may not be the only monsters with whom she is going to deal. 





One of the best elements in this film is how we see an entirely different set of character dynamics than in most animated fare, which is probably due to the fantastic writing combo of Selick and Jordan Peele. For one thing, the lead character doesn’t end up with a romance option with anyone. While there is debate about the whole romance or no romance option of lead characters going on right now due to comments made about the upcoming live-action Snow White remake, it is nice to see two of our leads just be good friends or accomplices to the antics without having to deal with ‘will they or won’t they’ story beats. The main goal of our lead Kat is to find a way to bring back her parents and deal with whatever is going on with the school she is living in. Our two demonic brothers bring in a distinct take of the magical entities that team up with a human story trope. They do trick her, and in the end, get redeemed not only in the eyes of Kat and their father, but they do act like demons. They lie and take advantage of Kat’s emotional luggage, they do things behind her back, and they are mischievous. You still care for them and are intensely entertaining characters, but they aren’t 100% good, which makes sense due to them being demons. Everyone from the adults to the other students all have layers to them that make this entire cast some of the more complex character lineups in 2022. Rarely does this film let any of the characters fall to the wayside and feel undercooked. With the exception maybe being the two friends of Siobhan’s friends Sweetie and Sloane, what they lack with multi-dimensional personalities, are picked up by characters like Sam Zelaya’s Raul, who is one of the most fun characters in animation this year. Seriously, there is so much personality shoved into this film, that there will be a chance that everyone watching this will result in rewinding or pausing to see all of the details or small character beats that you will definitely want to catch while on your second or third time through.  It’s going to be a bit bumpy because it’s tackling themes of death, family connections, grief, loss, and how shady, powerful, and metaphorically demonic individuals take what sounds like hopeful ideas/ideals and use them for their own greed and desires ala what is going on with the school Kat attends. Sure, it can feel a bit stuffed at 105 minutes, and I agree to a certain degree that it was a lot to juggle, but the strong character dynamics and themes were keeping this animation fan glued to the screen during Animation is Film when it was on the big screen. Even stuff with the hair cream has symbolic meaning to the overarching story, and its details like that and how you can see Wendell and Wild have different facial animations while in hell and in the human world makes films like this special. 




The animation, to no surprise, is amazing. Instead of tightly polishing the stop-motion elements as other studios would do, Henry Selick made sure to keep the imperfections that make stop-motion extremely special. It would be boring if they just edited out the different lines for the separate face pieces. Plus, like Anomalisa, you can take the little line you see on Father Bests’ face and spin it as a metaphorical mask he puts on for the students that hide his true intentions until he is around the others. Every character has either circular or angular designs that all have such punch and flair to them that is helped by the fact Selick hired a caricature artist to do the designs for this film. It results in some of the most distinct characters you see this year. As I referenced, Wendell and Wild themselves have what looks like two different facial movements when they are in different locations and little touches like that along with other small details like the janitor’s feet give you that Henry Selick punch that we all know and love. The voice cast is diverse, and they all play their respective roles well. Of course, you have the duo Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, but you also have Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, James Hong, Ving Rhames, Sam Zelaya, Tamara Smart, Seema Virdi, Ramona Young, Michele Mariana, Natalie Martinez, Tantoo Cardinal, Igal Naor, Gary Gatewood, Gabrielle Dennis, David Harewood, and Maxine Peake that round up a satisfying cast of distinct characters. Bruno Coulais was the composer behind this film, and he brings all the quirky, scary, and macabre that you would want for what is essentially a horror comedy. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he also helped out with films like 2014’s Mune: Guardian of the Moon, Song of the Sea, 2018’s White Fang, and 2020’s Wolfwalkers, which makes all of the sense when you really think about his musical talents and sounds that he likes to deliver to the table. It pairs well with the amazing afropunk soundtrack that gives the horror a special rock edge.

Hollywood needs to stop beating around the bush and stop getting hung up on how much stop-motion animated features cost. The execs in the major studios sure as heck like spending money on massive tentpoles and pre-existing IPs that they are running into the ground when they don’t need to. Just cut a blank check to Henry Selick and let him make whatever films he wants. Wendell & Wild is a fantastic film, and it’s not just one of the best films in the medium of animation in 2022, but one of the best films in general of 2022. If you can, just find time to watch it when it hits Netflix, because I can absolutely see this becoming an instant classic in the world of film. Hopefully, a company like Criterion can put it out on a nice blu-ray with a ton of features. It’s amazing how fantastic 2022 has been in general with animation, especially with stop-motion showing how vibrant the medium is. Now then, next time, well, you are going to have to wait and see. 

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 623: The Bob’s Burgers Movie Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Honestly? It’s surprising that it has taken this long to get a Bob’s Burgers movie. Since the franchise started in 2011, it has pretty much been one of the go-to examples of adult animation that doesn’t heavily rely on raunchy humor, ultra-violence, shock jock sensibilities, and everything else that has given adult animation a bad reputation. Sure, by now, we have had shows like Arcane, Primal, and Legends of Vox Machina show that there can have varied results with adult animation, but since we are still going to get something like the upcoming Farzar, the best you can do is try to craft an experience that can make yourself stand out from the rest in the adult animation genre. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, and yes, you could argue that the creators of the other similar shows Central Park and The Great North feel too akin to Bob’s Burgers, but they tend to be executed in different enough ways to still feel refreshing, despite the common spirit and writing of the three shows. Now then, how do you take a show like Bob’s Burgers with a distinct flow that differs from something like The Simpsons and turn it into a movie? Well, you do so with flying colors! 

The film is directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman, written by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, and produced by Bento Box Entertainment, Wilo Productions, and 20th Century Animation. We join the ever-lovable Belcher family that includes Bob Belcher, voiced by H. John Benjamin, Tina Belcher, voiced by Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman as Gene Belcher, John Roberts as Linda Belcher, and Kristen Schaal as Louise Belcher, as they begin to prepare for summer. This includes getting their loan handled, Tina finally asking Jimmy Pesto to be her summertime boyfriend, Gene getting his new instrument ready for a summertime performance, and Louise going through some personal self-discovery matters.  Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Tina can’t talk to Jimmy Pesto Jr, the bank declines the loan situation, and Louise, worst of all, is called a baby. They try to make all of the things go well for the four of them until a huge pothole opens up right in front of the restaurant that threatens to shut down Bob’s Burgers. Can the family figure out what’s going on? Why was a dead body found deep in the hole? Who is exactly behind all of this?

So, we have yet another animated show getting the film treatment, but what actually works about this flick? Well, while it does have a lot of those elements that you see in franchise films with the bigger budget for the visuals, and maybe a celebrity here or there to voice the characters, the overall size of the story and scale of the film is small. It’s actually refreshing, because the film literally takes place in only a few blocks of the show’s setting. No plot of the family traveling the world or the government showing interest in this one town for some reason, or an alien invasion. It’s a story about the parents finding a way to save their home and restaurant, Louise’s arc of overcoming her fears, Tina wanting to finally ask out her crush, and Eugene wanting to be the big pop star hit at the carnival. Of course, two of these plots take up most of the run time, but the fact they were able to make this all work and be able to pack so much charm and wit into the writing makes for an extremely entertaining experience. Even if it isn’t a full-blown musical, the few tunes they do have are executed in a way to add substance to the overall story and perfectly encapsulate what the characters are going for. The world and story might be small, but to everyone involved in the film’s plot, it’s world-ending levels big. That’s the beauty of the film. They did some major additions to the overall vibe of the show to make it work on the big screen, but they also kept the spirit of the show and what made it special at its core. You don’t usually get that with many films based on TV shows. 

On the animation and technical side of things, the film does look pretty good! It’s definitely a more fluid take on the characters that you should expect with film adaptations. While there are a few points where you can tell there are 2D characters walking alongside CGI backgrounds that result in some wonky compositing, it’s very rare and the visuals are pretty consistent. The designs were very approachable and making them look appealing and filled with the appeal was never going to be a problem for this show’s visuals. What’s also nice about the animation is that everyone, even during the big musical sequences, doesn’t act out of place or move like they are from a Disney Fantasia. Everyone dances like how normal people do. The Lucky Ducks sequence is a great example of this where it’s still well-choreographed, but it has its Bob’s Burgers appeal in how it looks. Voice cast-wise, while there are some big names, the real draw is always going to be the main cast of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, and Eugene Mirman. The rest of the cast is also perfect, with Larry Murphy as the Belcher’s lovable patron and friend, Teddy, Kevin Kline as the detached landlord Calvin and his brother Felix, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of other actors reprising or playing minor roles that include Jordan Peele, Paul F. Tompkins, Stephanie Beatriz, and Jenny Slate, to name a few. The music by John Dylan Keith and Loren Bouchard is great and has the small town charm of the show, and the musical numbers by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith are limited with only four songs, but the three that are available on the soundtrack have a whimsy about them that definitely reminds me of something from The Muppets. Even with everyone basically being voice actors/actors first, they do carry the tunes well! It’s just another part of the appeal of the franchise. 

 Now, one of the few criticisms I have is that the film does tend to focus more on Bob and Linda, and Louise’s story arcs than Tina and Eugene’s story arcs. Not that it’s a bad thing due to how the former three characters have a much more substantial story going on saving the restaurant and overcoming personal fears, but Tina gets the school crush arc and Eugene just wants to perform at the festival. Not that those two plots are bad, but there isn’t much to them. The film also gets a little long at 100 minutes? Personally, the film would have felt a little tighter around 90 minutes, but the fact that there is so much humor from the dialogue to visual gags shoved into each scene, that it almost fixes the pacing issues in the third act. Even by this point, everyone knows who the villain is, and while he has a few funny moments, he’s partly forgettable. Just a small road bump to get to the Belchers. 


While it may be more of what you love about the franchise, it shows that this franchise can do films, and if they would like to do more in the future, then that would be swell. It’s a fun, breezy, and delightful romp that everyone should go see if you already are going to or have seen Pixar’s Lightyear, but need something before the incredible The Sea Beast. I’ll definitely be picking up this film in the future when it hits Blu-ray, and if you love animated films with an indie charm, then you will love this film. Next time though, we are going to check out Chris Williams’ new Netflix animated feature of epic proportions, The Sea Beast


Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 74: Storks Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When The LEGO Movie came out back in 2014, it took the world by storm. It was one of the biggest films of the year, and one of the biggest surprises in movie history. Everyone thought this was going to be a cynical cash-in like Home or Minions, but it ended up being better than what anyone could imagine. The directors and writers put in their all for this one movie, and it paid off with being one of the best animated films of the decade. It also showed that just because you are based on a toy, doesn’t mean you have to be terrible. It was a huge victory for Warner Brothers, and a great start to their new redone animation branch. So, to me, Storks had a lot to live up to. Released back in 2016, Storks was released by Warner Brothers, and while not bombing, it didn’t do as well as The LEGO Movie, and got mixed reviews. You either enjoyed the movie, or you got really irritated with it. Where do I stand on this film from director duo Doug Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller? Well, let’s find out.

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Storks is set in a world where, well, storks don’t deliver babies to households anymore, and are more like a cartoon version of what Amazon wants to do with delivery drones and delivery-packaged goods. The lead or one of the leads is a stork named Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, who is close to being the new boss of the company that is, as of right, now run by a stork named Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammar. While Junior may be close to getting the new position of boss, he is told to fire and get rid of the one human that is working there, an orphan named Tulip, voiced by Katie Crown. After some shenanigans, Junior and Tulip end up accidentally turning on the old baby-making machine (literally a machine) and, well, make a baby. It’s then up to them to get it to the family that requested it, while avoiding Hunter, a small pigeon voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, a pack of wolves played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and a stork that went rogue long ago named Jasper, voiced by Danny Trejo.

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So, this is a lot to take in with its comedic set-up, execution, and world. How does it all work? Well, for me at the very least, this is one of those movies that could and should have had a couple of more lookovers to polish it all out. I knew going in, that this movie would be more on the comedic side of things, and that would be okay. I’m fine when a comedy wants to be a comedy, but if you are going to add heart and soul to your comedy, it needs to be balanced out with the funny moments. I mean, think about some of the great comedies of the last two decades or so. Comedies like Hot Fuzz, Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek 2 work because while they are very funny, you still cared about the characters and what they were going through. It was icing on the cake that the movie was gut busting hilarious. At least for me, Storks doesn’t really reach that height of comedy.  I don’t think its two leads, while well-voiced and can work off each other well, have the greatest of character development. You get Tulip’s drive to find her family and to make sure the baby gets to its family, but Junior doesn’t really have the best drive as a character. It doesn’t help either that it goes through a “liar’s reveal” trope, but I can give it credit that it doesn’t daudle too long on that part of the story. It also would have been nice if characters like Jasper and Hunter could have had more time to be fleshed out or be even funnier or more entertaining as characters. Even the family that the baby is supposed to be taken to, with parents played by Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, should be funnier than what you get in the movie. Maybe it’s because they are fairly white bread overworked parents, but when you have those two actors, you can do more with them, and we know they can do more since both have been in fantastic animated films like The Iron Giant and Finding Dory.

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Now then, how is the comedy? Well, like most comedies that can be considered good or entertaining, there are some great jokes that are hilarious when done well, a few amusing jokes that make you chuckle, and some that fall flat. It’s a shame more films don’t take the route that the best comedies have taken, and pick and choose their jokes and not fall onto some of the more popular tropes in comedies. A lot of the visual gags and lines work, due to the animation of the film, but you do hear a groaner here and there, and characters like Pigeon Toady will either be annoying or hilarious depending on whom you are as an individual.

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Now, the film does try to cover up some plot holes by being very meta about it, with characters literally asking why these things exist, and that became fairly distracting. To me, meta humor is starting to slowly hit that point where it’s less about being very funny and clever, and more about using meta humor to hide and ignore that the story has issues. Why is the baby machine still around? Why were there storks delivering babies when there are more…natural ways of having babies? Why did the incident with Tulip shut down everything in terms of baby delivery? Why is the ‘off button’ behind a bunch of razor blades? I know when it comes to cartoon comedies, you have to just go with the flow, but the meta humor rides the line of covering up lazy world-building and writing.

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Now, that is not to say that I hate this movie. I know I just criticized it a whole bunch, but I found Storks to be an incredibly entertaining ride. The animation is great, it’s the right kind of fast, it helps the physical comedy hit it out of the park multiple times, and it’s got great designs. This is the same studio that did Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and it looks so much better than what the studio had to do with in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Seriously, watch that movie and tell me that you see how cheap it looks compared to the original Cloudy film.

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Anyway, the voice cast also does a fantastic job. Sure, you get some pretty solid performances from some of the actors like Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston, and a majority of the cast sounds very engaged with their performances. I also give Warner Brothers so much credit for casting an actual honest-to-goodness voice actress for Tulip. Tulips’ actress, Katie Crown, is an actress most known for her role as Izzy from the Total Drama franchise. It’s just so rare that actual voice actors get major roles in animated films. It could have been so easy to just get a bubbly big-name actress to do this role, but they pretty much said “screw that”, and got an honest-to-gravy voice actress. As for a comedic cast, it’s really solid stuff. Andy Samberg, Keegan Michael Keye, Jordan Peele, Kelsey Grammar, Stephen Kramer Glickman, Danny Trejo, and Katie Crown all work off each other well and have some pretty great chemistry. For the comedy itself, I was laughing at multiple points in the movie, from the introduction of Key and Peele’s wolf characters, to the encounter with the penguins. Storks brings in very much “out there” brands of comedy that you would see in a Looney Toons short. I mean, it is Warner Brothers, they should know how this all works by now. Even the somewhat boring white bread family gets some great lines, but that should be no surprise, due to Ty Burrell and Jennifer Aniston being used to flexing their comedic muscles before.

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Storks might be a bit clunky in the world-building and story department, but it brings in so many laughs that it pretty much makes for an enjoyable ride. However, do I understand why it didn’t do well in the box office, and why critics were split on the film? Of course I do. I might like the film and recommend it for a good fun animated comedy, but you should be able to understand when someone else couldn’t get into it. Still, if you feel like you are in the mood for a comedy that’s less reliant on raunchy comedy and stock humor, Storks is that comedy. Well then, it’s time we look at films from 2017, and we shall start with Nerdland. Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Go see it!