Monday, August 16, 2010

#36-Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Where The Wild Things Are

It is truly saying something, when I believe that what is quite possible one of the most important films of 2009 is based on a children’s book that has merely ten sentences in it’s entire construct. Based on the 1963 book of the same name by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things are is recreated for film by also famous novelist Dave Eggers, and acclaimed director Spike Jonze.

Jonze is most notable for directing the Charlie Kaufman films, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, (which I really need to re-watch) both of which are excellent films. Here he takes a slightly different approach adapting a children’s novel rather than some very original adult material. However, simply because it is based on a book for kids does not make Where The Wild Things are any less dramatic, adult, or important than his previous works.

Where The Wild Things Are is about a young boy named Max who is the young child of a single Mom. Max faces some of the normal calamities that strike childhood in these times, such as the single parent, a new step-parent, an older sibling and simple loneliness. All these conflicting emotions come together one night, and after a fight with his Mother, Max finally does what most children only dream of and run away. He escapes onto a boat and sails across the ocean to an island full of ‘Wild Things’ where they make Max their king, and he begins his rule.

Jonze is one of the bright young talents in Hollywood. He has made great film after great film again and again, without hitting a wrong note thus far. Jason Reitman is a director of similar talent, along with Edgar Wright, and possibly Marc Webb, depending on what his next move is. Jonze’s talent is still on display here, with Wild Things having an exceptionally cool look and feel to it. The film moves a long at a decent pace, even if there are moments when it drags, and not much is going on. The hardships of being young are captured here perfectly, and you can still feel the sting of the one painful snowball that seemed to end every fight. The emotion is incredibly rich and flowing here, with each Wild Thing representing an emotion that Max would have experienced in the real world. It is a great way of communicating ideas and themes throughout the film, without beating the audience over the head with them.

"I'm an explorer mostly"

Max Records, the young boy who plays Max does an amazing job as the films leading man. He is the only real person on screen for ninety percent of the film and carries emotion very well. He is surrounded by imaginary creatures and manages to keep himself in the correct place mentally. His performance has few of the memorable scenes in which people scream and yell, but has a more subdued feeling about that makes it even more unbelievable. The voices of the Wild Things are cool as well, coming from some extraordinary talent, including the likes of: James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker, Catharine O’Hara, and Paul Dano. It also includes some small performances from Catharine Keener, as Max’s Mother, and Mark Ruffalo as her boyfriend.

The creatures look great. They are a combination of computer animation, puppetry and real life actors inside real suits. The three forms mesh together really well and create a really nice looking effect. The CGI gives them facially movement that allows them to express great emotion as each has their own personality, while the suits and puppetry make them look real, and give them a natural element.

Where The Wild Things are is simply astonishing. Jonze and Eggers manage to make their own creature from this classic story, while holding true to Sendak’s work. Jonze is a fantastic director, and knocks this one out of the park, and continues to play his career perfectly. The young boy Max Records is the most astonishing child actor I have ever seen in a film, and I think his performance deserves some recognition. He carries the entire movie on his back for over an hour and a half, and never once does his performance flinch. He is at times, angry, happy, sad, engaged, lonely and often all of them at the same time. The film captures the image of childhood in all of it’s inglorious beauty, and is often real to the point of heart break. The film is slow sometimes, but never is it boring. This is less of a children’s movie as it is a film for adults to remember what it’s like to be a child. Karen O creates some fun, if at times annoying hipster tunes that do fit the film, and the cinematography captures the wild rumpus that we have in all of us.

I Give Where The Wild Things Are A:


  1. Ya this is a great film. I think it's Jonze's most personal and I can see how he in particular would relate to Max's story. I'm not so sure about the comparison between him and Edgar Wright/Marc Webb since he has about a decade on both of them and I don't really believe that Wright has proven himself to be anythign special as both Saun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are amusing but deeply flawed. Haven't seen Scott Pilgrem yet but really, it looks like it could either be fun or a big headache. Good review though.

  2. I had a chance to see Scott Pilgrim on Friday, and it was one of the funniest films I have seen in a while. While the movie did have some flaws, I think it was pulled off extraordinarly well, having to deal with all the strange SFX, but definatly something to check out. It all really depends on if you can sit through Michael Cera, who I like more than most people.