Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jaeden Martell, Sophie Giannamore, John Turturro, Eve Hewson , Chris Messina, Michelle Wilson, Chloë Sevigny, Stephen McKinley, Melissa Mandisa, Nick Pulinski, Colin Farrell, Samuel Fesmire, Kate Thulin, Bob Rusch, Kristy Nolen
Written by: Olivia Dufault
Directed by: Martin Krejcí
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, drinking, some strong language, sexual references and violence - all involving teens
Running Time: 88
Date: 10/30/2020

The True Adventures of Wolfboy (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hair Apparent

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Crafted as a kind of fable or fairy tale, the coming-of-age story The True Adventures of Wolfboy coaxes viewer empathy for its hero as effortlessly as Mask or Wonder did, but with more gleeful irreverence and irresistible pluck.

Shy, self-conscious 13 year-old Paul (Jaeden Martell) has a condition that causes hair to grow prodigiously on his face and body. His well-meaning father (Chris Messina) tries to take him to a carnival for his birthday, but the day ends up going badly. He decides to run away from home to find his mother, using a map that has mysteriously arrived in the mail.

His first stop is the carnival, where Mr. Silk (John Turturro) offers him employment as a sideshow freak, but things don't exactly go as planned, and Paul must escape. Next he meets Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore), who is about his age; they hit it off and she decides to run away too. They catch a ride with eyepatch-wearing Rose (Eve Hewson), who stops to throw Paul a proper birthday party. But even as they near their destination, a vengeful Mr. Silk is hot on Paul's trail.

The True Adventures of Wolfboy may not actually be "true," but it begins rooted in all-too recognizable emotions and acts: i.e. Paul's pain and self-consciousness, his father's heartfelt but misplaced attempts to help, and the hateful attacks of bullies. From there, it breaks itself into chapters headed with titles about dragons, devils, mermaids, a pirate queen, and more, accompanied by amazing illustrations, and the road trip itself is a wild whirlwind of storytelling.

The movie has a "tall tale" vibe, not unlike Big Fish or Forrest Gump, but with unwise choices. In his short time on the road, Paul becomes involved in arson, armed robbery, and underage drinking, among other things. But as a moving story about finding one's tribe, it's all forgivable. Director Martin Krejci may not have the visual palette of someone like Tim Burton, but he makes up for it with his impeccable casting, costumes, and makeup effects.

In the lead, rising star Jaeden Martell (formerly known as Jaeden Lieberher) — of Midnight Special, It, and Knives Out — gives a gloriously vulnerable performance, not just withdrawn, but sometimes lashing out to protect himself. His joy at finding friends is like a tonic.

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