Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 29th, 2020
The True Adventures of Wolfboy (Martin Krejcí, 2019) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Very rarely do the creature-feature genre and the teenage dramedy find themselves coming together to form a solid work of cinema that mutually benefits both sides of the film’s classification. Attempting to bring these subgenres together, The True Adventures of Wolfboy is a unique, genuine film that utilizes the classic monster motifs of various mythological creatures and blends them with heartfelt, thematic content that can be found in films such as The Fault in Our Stars or Call Me by Your Name. Director Martin Krejcí, making his feature debut, tells a story about Paul (Jaeden Martell, It) a young boy with a severe skin/hair disorder, which gives him the form of a “wolflike” creature. Tormented by society, Paul flees home in search of (what he believes to be) his biological mother, only to discover the secrets behind who he is and what is it that makes him the “wolfboy.”
The film’s plot is driven by a very clever and cute storybook narration, dividing the movie’s scenes by book chapters and depicting key supporting characters as mythological, fictional creatures (mermaids, the Devil, pirates, etc.). Is this the most original way to drive the story? Not necessarily, but it is extremely effective in order to reach out to a younger audience, which is indisputably the target demographic for this film. The themes of being an outcast, discovering self, and finding true friendship permeate the film (and even hit the viewer over the head too hard at some points). The True Adventures of Wolfboy seeks to take monstrous characters and give them life, motivations and the pursuit of purpose and acceptance in an unkind world.
Martell leads the film with all of the shy, awkward and, at humorous moments, snarky personality traits of a young boy discovering himself. Many of the supporting characters deliver their caricature roles delightfully, leading to extremely intimate and effective motifs. A majority of the dialogue flows naturally and precisely, bringing out the characters’ motivations and personalities, and even raises tension between opposing characters. The strongest element is how the writer uses modern characters and settings and parallels them with classic images of adventure (a mermaid becomes a misunderstood young woman, the Devil becomes a crooked circus leader, a store robber translates to a pirate, etc.). This creates a compelling social view of teenage youth today, and uses that metaphor to depict issues of identity and self-discovery.
Though the teenage-angst themes hit a little excessively at some moments, overall The True Adventures of Wolfboy delivers an emotionally powerful message that uses adventure-film archetypes to construct an honest, intimate and moving film perfect for the Halloween season, particularly for fans of non-scary Halloween movies. Like many drama-driven films, it has slight issues with pacing, and at moments almost loses the audience with slow-burn scenes. This does not, however, prohibit the film from bouncing back with interesting imagery, exciting (if not controversial) scenes of teenage rebellion, and touching moments of characters learning life lessons from each other. For the creature-feature fan, The True Adventures of Wolfboy is a personal journey worth going on, and for the dramedy viewer, it will give you a somewhat-spooky narrative work that is worth the experience, particularly in this season.