Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Martin Krejcí and written by Olivia Dufault, The True Adventures of Wolfboy feels as if Tim Burton tried to do a werewolf movie, for better or worse. A fun but not entirely original adventure, this film’s biggest struggle is finding a tone, as it’s a bit too dark for kids but also too silly for most adults.
The movie follows a young boy with a rare condition that causes his body to be covered with hair as he runs away from home in search of his estranged mother. The film hits all the predictable beats, even some outdated ones, like joining the circus, causing Olivia Dufault’s script to almost ironically remind the audience that it is not the journey, but the destination that is important.
As one would expect, the movie has at its core a message about compassion and accepting others not despite, but for their difference. That said, subtlety is most certainly not the name of the game here, and the film essentially spells out the moral of the story in a straightforward (but admittedly moving) dialogue scene.
At less than an hour and a half in length, the movie breezes by. The narrative is divided into sections, each of which follows the protagonist as he goes on another adventure. Some are a little more grounded, like throwing a massive birthday party, whereas others go all-in on the fantasy element.
The thing that seems to be missing here are memorable supporting characters. While the misfit protagonist is certainly the hero of the story, his sidekicks and villains that he meets along the way are all stock characters. What could have allowed this to really stand out from the sea of other family drabble would have been someone else to remember.
That said, the cast that was assembled for the project is full of talented actors, and they are able to make some of the flat characters more interesting. The almost always big John Turturro gives yet another lovably flashy turn as the duplicitous carnie who has it out for the hero. Jaeden Martell brings some nuance to an (almost frustratingly) obvious role. And Chris Messina, Chloë Sevigny, and Stephen McKinley Henderson round out the supporters with small but powerful parts.
One would be remiss if they didn’t acknowledge the production design and make-up work that went into creating the film. It’s an immersive style that really throws the viewer into this uncanny world. Still, there are some portions that are a bit over-the-top, especially the score which is pretty generic.
The True Adventures of Wolfboy is fun, but it owes a lot of artistic influence to better, more authentic movies. Yet even if it is mostly a film of in-betweens, it’s worth watching because of the strength of the cast alone.
The True Adventures of Wolfboy hits theaters and VOD on October 30.