I love desserts. I never thought that that would be a statement that was needed to be said but as I venture further and further into adulthood and my dreaded thirties, I have noticed and unsettling trend: desserts are as unfashionable as cowboy hats in Times Square. I mention this because Netflix’s recent forays into animation have very much struck me with a sinfully sweet aftertaste. Let’s think about Arcane. Much like the tiramisu at Pecora Bianca, it’s not the reason you showed up but it’s the keynote to end off a great experience. Very few subscribe to Netflix for its animated content but it proved that it’s more than just a cherry on top, it’s a palpable final note.
Now not all desserts are great. For example, much to the chagrin of many fall lovers, I can’t stand pumpkin pie. But Wendell & Wild, the most recent Netflix animated film, is not quite that. It’s something like Paris Baguette – it’s like and fluffy and slightly sweet, but not quite the sugary punch you’d expect. You know dessert would be a satisfying meal, but you at least expect something that could excite your senses without destroying too many teeth. You don’t need it to fill you with nutrients. In the film world, that’s what Nolan and Tarantino are here for. Wendell & Wild, especially given the creative minds behind it, left me feeling a bit disappointed and bored while altogether remembering “right, this is a movie for children, after all”.
The strongest part about this film is the creative mind behind it all: Henry Selick. His animated art style is by far one of the most inventive visual experiences in the world of film today. He manages to push the boundaries of his iconic clay style animation to the limits and just when you think he’s exhausted the limits of his medium, he goes even further and creates something entirely new. He wasn’t the only creative talent at play here. In fact, there were many incredibly talented voice actors who were able to help bring this film to life, for example, Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael-Key. Their performances helped to carry the movie and it’s hard to imagine this movie working without them.
Back to talking about desserts. The reason why animated children’s movies and especially Wendell & Wild instantly brought my mind to think of dessert was because like many of the overpriced bakeries that are speckled across Manhattan, they look better than they taste. Every detail is precise, prim, and pretty but leaves me longing for the unassuming masterpiece that is my mother’s baked goods. The one thing Wendell & Wild has is that polish. It is an incredibly inventive and beautiful movie and it’s a joy to watch. It is a quintessential exemplar of the phrase “every frame a painting”. However the themes are explored at a surface level, character development is so rushed as to feel overlooked, and the plot can best be described at simplistic. Pixar showed that animated films can explore deeper themes in a real way nearly thirty years ago, but to compare the two even with Pixar’s weak recent releases would be a disservice. In the end, Wendell & Wild is a beautiful mediocre pastry in a world where Michelin starred outputs has been the established bar for years.