Where the Wild Things Are Movie Review
When I heard that Warner Bros. was going to produce a film version of the beloved children’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are,” I was skeptical at best. How could director Spike Jonze adapt a book of only 20 pages and 10 sentences into a full-feature film?
The result is a visually compelling adventure that is respectful of the 1963 children’s picture book. Jonze and company capture author Maurice Sendak’s psychoanalytical tone and expound on the theme – how kids master various feelings.
As a child, I identified with the main character Max. In the book, he is sent to bed without dinner but then a forest starts to grow in his room and an ocean tumbles by with a private boat to sail to where the wild things are. After taming the wild things and being hailed their ruler, Max sails back home just in time for supper. Who doesn’t want to be Max?
In the film version, kids will still identify with Max but they will be more enthralled by the wild things roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth and rolling their terrible eyes and showing their terrible claws. Every boy will want to tame the wild things and be their ruler.
Max Records (“The Brothers Bloom”) stars as Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home. His single mom (Catherine Keener) is preoccupied with her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo), while his adolescent sister does not have time for him anymore.
One night during dinner, Max and his mom have an argument. But instead of the boy being sent to his room, Max escapes to where the Wild Things are. He lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.
I like how the Wild Things represent lateral relationships and emotions within Max’s world. Carol (James Gandolfini) is the powerful and sensitive leader of the pack; KW (Lauren Ambrose) loves the group dynamic but also craves time alone; Chris Cooper is the energetic and industrious rooster-feathered Douglas; Catherine O’Hara is my favorite as the sarcastic and domineering Judith; Forest Whitaker voices Ira, Judith’s modest and patient companion; And Paul Dano is the diminutive goat-horned Alexander.
The Wild Things, who have been looking for a leader to guide them, crown Max as their perfect ruler. But soon, Max discovers that ruling a kingdom proves more complex than he originally thought.
Jonze, one of the most original and inventive filmmakers working today, is the ideal director to adapt Sendak’s Caldecott Medal winning masterpiece. His quirky yet soulful style matches the book’s spirit. Although the film may be best remembered as visually stunning, “Where the Wild Things Are” is a perfect addition to Jonze’s oeuvre which includes the excellent “Being John Malkovich” and the trippy “Adaptation.”
Co-writing the script with literary writer Dave Eggers, Jonze made a movie about childhood that explored the issues we all experienced growing up. “Where the Wild Things Are” is an enjoyable, albeit flawed masterpiece that is brave enough to talk about the feral joys of growing up.
The film has excellent production values especially the cinematography by longtime Jonze collaborator, Lance Acord. The movie has a surreal quality that feels naturalistic. It took a year for Warner Bros. to release “Where the Wild Things Are” because it wasn’t kid-friendly enough. What the studio didn’t understand is that the story is universal and the film is perfect for all ages. To this day, we’re still looking for places to go to figure out the world we live in.
Rating: Where the Wild Things Are – 3 kisses
Year of Production: 2009
Country: United States