18
Oct
2009
Review: Where The Wild Things Are
Where The Wild Things Are
Sam
Spike Jonze's latest film, Where the Wild Things Are, had been subject to rumors about how much control the director would have over the film. Word was that the film was originally too dark or scary for a wide audience made up largely of children. If Jonze had to make any changes, he didn't let them tamper with the quality of the film.

Like the original book, the plot of the film is incredibly basic. Max (Max Records) is an angry kid whose life seems to be getting worse and worse. Through his eyes, the eyes of a child, running away from his mother (Catherine Keener) is the only way to deal with his troubles. Max's frustrations are established early on as his mother starts dating a new guy played well, and briefly, by Mark Ruffalo. After getting in an pretty big fight with his mother Max runs away and ends up in the land of the wild things.

Max's time with the wild things does not seem to really go anywhere, which is the point. The different creatures each represent a different part of Max's personality (and in the grander scheme, the personalities of many kids Max's age). His time with the wild things is spent playing exactly as any real kid would. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the film is the Jonze is able to perfectly capture what playing around like a kid looks and sounds like. Until this film, it was hard to see that every other movie was getting this wrong because Max Record's interaction with the wild things was spot on.

The voice work for the wild things is excellent as are the costumes designed by the Jim Henson Company. The creatures seem real enough without straying far from Maurice Sendak's illustrations. The cast of wild things is led by brilliant voice performances from James Gandolfini (Carol) and Lauren Ambrose (KW). The two are joined by other strong performances by Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano and Chris Cooper.

Anyone who is familiar book knows the ending of the story and it remains just as sweet as it was on the page. In any other movie the ending may have felt unsatisfying but it made sense to the story and the spirit of the book, so kudos to Jonze for sticking with the source material. Needless to say the film is beautifully shot and the production design is Oscar worthy. In fact those costumes should take home the little gold man as well. Somehow they made those giant monster outfits incredibly agile.

The film feels as simple as it should and that is a credit to Jonze. Almost all of the emotional notes strike when they need to and we are put in the same place as Max, which is the goal of the film. As children's films go, Where the Wild Things Are is not life changing but still an incredibly strong film everyone should enjoy.

A-
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