Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are


The children's book of the same name by Maurice Sendak is a strange one to actually make into a film. But Spike Jonze has done it, and I for one really liked it. I read the book quite often in Primary School and unfortunately I have not read it since then so it is not really all that clear in my mind. All I remember is the bedroom transforming into the forest and the wild things appear.

The film itself follows the story of young Max (Max Records), who seems to be a bit of a shy child, who gets no attention from his sister (Pepita Emmerichs) which is desperately craves. He has a wild imagination, making an igloo in the yard which ends up getting destroyed by the neighbourhood kids which upsets Max even more so that his sister didn't help him. Max's mother (Catherine Keener) is a busy one but she makes the time for Max. Max seems to be having difficulty dealing with getting older, and seems to lash out. The night where his mother doesn't show him as much attention as he'd like because she has a friend over, he cracks a tantrum and runs off.

This leads to Max entering his imagination in the world of The Wild Things. Much like how things were at home when he ran out, there seems to be a bit of a tantrum going on with The Wild Things, as he stumbles upon one of them destroying the houses they live in. We then meet The Wild Things, Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) who like Max is having a hard time and destroying the houses as he is angry over KW (voiced by Lauren Ambrose) for leaving them. The other Wild Things Alexander (voiced by Paul Dano), Judith (voiced by Catherine O'Hara), Ira (voiced by Forest Whitaker), Douglas (voiced by Chris Cooper) and The Bull (voiced by Michael Berry Jr.) aren't too impressed with Carol's actions, but Max tries to unite them all. He tells them he is a King, so they make him their King instead of eating them and that is where the adventure begins.

I have to say firstly while the marketing at this seemed to be aimed at kids, it isn't really a kids film. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone younger then 12, I just don't think they will get it and it does end up being rather complex as well. This is more of a film for adults (young and old alike), and I think the pacing of the film as well might bore the young ones. With that said, that was my only real gripe with the film, was the pacing. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn't and it just moved a little bit too slow with some scenes. Other then that I really enjoyed this film and I did get a lot out of it.

There are clear paralells with The Wild Things and Max himself and his life. Carol is like Max, he reflects who Max is and who he wants to stay. Max does not want to grow up, and I do feel his character was having a hard time adjusting to that. KW is the sister he does not have and really wants, their relationship is a key part of the story and strong part of the film. At times it was so touching, and Lauren Ambrose did such a great voice job. I do miss her. While the other Wild Things aren't as developed, you can see parts of Max and his family in them as well. Different parts of his personality, parts of his life, and this is something a younger audience I don't think will pick up on.

As the story progresses things do not go according to plan for Max, and Carol becomes even more difficult to deal with (like Max was with his family), and the conflict that happens is important as Max learns a few life lessons there. There are some sad things in this film and some up lifting things as well, just like life it isn't all peaches and cream.

One very successful element of this film is the Wild Things themselves, they look simply fantastic. You can't tell if they are actually real or not, and the way they interact with their environment and with Max is stunning. I was so impressed with the over all look of the film, the use (and lack of) colour really worked. The voice jobs done by the actors were so fantastic, everyone seemed to fit so well, and they really had some great personalities present. For the small role she had Catherine Keener was great as the mother, and she had great chemistry with Max. And of course Max himself, he was great, he hit all the right notes and showed all the right emotions. He worked well for the most part and I think they found the right kid for the role. Hopefully he gets more roles, he has some talent there and it'd be a shame to see it go to waste.

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