An exercise in the mundanely familiar, “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” may as well rest on the shelf of your local library in a children’s school. Take it from the frame, then show it to your second grade class of students, informing them why bullying is wrong. There’s nothing that stretches beyond the familiar theme of tolerance that provides Martin Krejcí’s film with any real weight or value. Krejcí’s picture plays everything by the book in the laziest substandard way possible where I forgot I even saw the movie after I finished watching it.
From frame one, you can guess how the entire picture is going to play out. Paul (Jaeden Martell) lives with his divorced dad (Chris Messina). Dad always tries to make his kid feel normal but continually fails to do so. After a disagreement, Paul joins the circus run by Mr. Silk (John Turturro). Mr. Silk is a cruel swindler, so Paul runs away from him and becomes friends with a girl that introduces Paul to a world of other people like him, along with his formal introduction to drugs. Later, Paul looks for his mom; you get it. It’s all so tiringly familiar. I’ve written movies like this when I was a film student. Immediately I ditched these stories since they had nothing to tell beyond the surface.
Not adding much to the narrative is the cast. Jaeden Martell plays everything on the same singular note of nervousness. He’s a kid that’s afraid to speak up; thus, he speaks all of his lines underneath his breath, afraid to be embarrassed by anything he states aloud. When he does speak up, he doesn’t say anything with real conviction. The blame can’t entirely be held at Martell’s feet since Olivia Dufault wrote a passive character. Paul does take action throughout the story; however, those actions seem impassive other than one event in the film that happens a bit too early, leaving zero emotional effect on my end.
John Turturro is becoming a parody of himself. First, with the failed “The Jesus Rolls” that Turturro directed himself, now with this film, John is weird again. If you need someone to play a creepy outsider, you get John Turturro. The moment Mr. Turturro comes on screen, you know he’s going to ham it up. Aside from that, everyone’s roles are as rounded or memorable as a loaf of bread. Once more, this is at the fault of a screenplay that has the depth of a high schooler’s tale of decency amongst the indecent. The best performances in the movie come from Chloë Sevigny and Stephen McKinley Henderson. They provide somewhat of an emotionally gratifying ending with a level of substance that’s mostly missing from this hollow picture.
Movies about outcasts can be told creatively. Look no further than David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man,” a film that’s almost entirely inaccurate but gorgeous in its style. From its natural black and white film stock down to its resonate performances. A more extreme contemporary example could be “Joker,” a movie that, like “The True Adventures of Wolfboy,” slams the audience over the head with its themes but does so through the power of a director’s vision. Martin Krejcí doesn’t seem to have a creative eye here.
The cinematography doesn’t go beyond the mere digital code its camera produces, rendering something that anyone could have shot on a RED or Blackmagic pocket cinema camera. The set design is a “good enough” effort, the score forgettable; I don’t see any artistic integrity beyond everyone else’s mundane vision. I was reminded less of a story about inclusion and more of Limp Biscuit Fred Durst’s “The Fanatic” with every storybook transition into the next act. At each eye-rolling display of cheap sentiment, “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” unintentionally makes a dull mockery of itself.