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Stream of the Week

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I instantly got excited. Henry Selick’s direction on stop motion classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Coraline (2009) is always as fun as it is thought-provoking, often dealing with themes of death, family and community. This time, with Jordan Peele co-screenwriting, co-producing and co-starring in the film, my expectations only rose, and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a wonderfully-crafted movie, impressive in how it manages to stay grounded while exploring so much as we follow Kat’s journey to accept her parents’ deaths. This Stream of the Week is Wendell & Wild (2022).

When two demons, Wendell and Wild, promise to resurrect her parents if she summons them, Kat couldn’t be faster to agree. As with any Faustian agreement, her plan backfires and Kat, along with her new friend Raúl, have to stop a corporate plot using zombies to sway a city council vote on building another private prison. The story’s magical elements are accentuated by some pretty remarkable visuals. Along with an eye-popping use of color and camerawork, there’s something special about the very concept of stop-motion pictures. Their handcrafted quality makes the viewing experience a bit more intimate, drawing us further into the surreal imagery and larger-than-life events that make Kat’s journey so special.

These achievements in cinematography are highlighted by Bruno Coulais’ whimsical music, which never dominates a scene but instead helps set a tone for what we’re watching. There’s a lot being explored here: gentrification, corruption, grief, loss, family, friendship. I can see it be a mess if it weren’t for the technical finesse in the execution, as well as the actors’ vocal performances. Lyric Ross helped bring Kat to life with a performance that had it all: anger, fear, warmth; amazing range. Key and Peele provide a comedic relief that’s great at cutting some of the heaviness in certain scenes; and I’d be remiss to forget Angela Bassett’s awesome job as Sister Helley. The humanity in each of these performances sticks with audiences, and makes the themes that much more compelling.

Despite all the demons, zombies and the devil himself, perhaps one of the scariest things in this movie is Klax Corp, a private prison company managed by the Klaxon family. They've purchased most of the town's available real estate, closing numerous local business in the process and scaring away many longtime residents. The demolition plans to make way for their newest private prison includes submerging part of the town with a knocked down water tower. This obviously calls back to some terrible history, making the Klaxons and their company a stand-in for the systemic racism which supports urban development and the profit it brings to the few. Through this framing, Selick and Peele offer audiences a glimpse at the corrupt political systems that often drive such histories, as well as the resistance that’s needed to stop them. It’s a smart, funny, emotional rollercoaster that will keep you entertained from start to finish, and it’s only on Netflix!

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