October 17, 2009
Review - " Where the Wild Things Are "
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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of furry beasts will be disappointed) he discovers a second family that accepts him not as himself but as a new-and-
improved, infinitely more assured version.
He is declared "king" of the strange creatures, whose not-so-perfect relationships indirectly mirror those in Max's real life.
Carol (voiced by a perfectly cast James
Gandolfini) takes to Max immediately - perhaps
because the beast personifies the boy and, in
some ways, his absent father. Carol laments
the perceived loss of KW (Lauren Ambrose),
a maternal figure who has found new friends
outside the group.
The king's "subjects" also include a faithful
demolition expert (Forest Whitaker) and an
undersized, goatlike creature (Paul Dano),
whom the suddenly empowered Max is quick
to pick on. (If there's one immutable truth to adolescence, it is that bullying rolls downhill.)
The parallels with his family aren't one-to-one, but the relationships among the utterly convincing "wild things" - stunning
creations with a mix of monster suits and computer animation - make complete emotional sense, allowing Max to work out his
place in the world by briefly escaping into another one. I like how the Wild Things represent the various relationships and
emotions within Max’s world. Carol (Gandolfini) is the powerful and sensitive leader of the pack, KW loves the group dynamic
but also craves time alone, Chris Cooper is the energetic and industrious rooster-feathered Douglas, Catherine O’Hara is
one of my favorites 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.
If nothing else, Where the Wild Things Are will remind older viewers how they once moved easily from one extreme to the
other - without being labeled hopelessly immature.
I liked it, a lot. But I didn’t love it, which is a shame. I probably put too high of an expectation on it and when it was done it
was sort of like, “Well, It’s done. I didn’t feel like it was anything too special.”
Let me start by giving it the praise it definitely deserved – the same thing you’ve probably heard from all critics: the scenery
was breathtaking and beautiful. Cinematography and art direction at its finest. There were some shots in there where I
couldn’t help and whisper, Wow! It should definitly get an Oscar nod for those categories. The monster characters were very
well done esthetically, well voiced and well
acted by the people in the costumes and
definitely captured the look and feel of the
The character of Max was played VERY well
by the young Max Records. He was adorable
and maybe a little raw at times. I really
enjoyed his portrayal of Max and was definitely
the right choice for this part.
The story had heart during the beginning and
end sequences with his family, especially his
mother (Catherine Keener). They had great
chemistry together and was touching at some
points. When it came to the monsters,
however, I came to the conclusion that
something lacked in his interactions with them. Something was empty. Now granted the Maurice Sendak book is what, 10 or
12 pages long? So I sorta blame Spike Jonze for the emptiness felt. He was trying to fill in the empty plot lines from the book
with something that just didn’t mesh well. He should’ve or could’ve maybe delved a little more into the lives of the monsters.
Yes, I know that the movie was about Max. But without knowing the monster’s backgrounds, I felt at times that I wasn't quite
sure what some particular monsters were about. I wanted a back story on why they were doing the things they were.
Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Starring: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, and a
variety of warm and fuzzy monsters voiced by the likes of Paul
Dano, James Gandolfini, Forrest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose,
Catherine O’Hara, Chris Cooper
In "Where the Wild Things Are" director Spike Jonze has so
perfectly captured the joys and fears of being 9 years old.
This film knows that a boy's cure for the blues is to stage a dirt-clod
war. Better still, the subtle and insightful script by Jonze and Dave
Eggers understands being lonely and lashing out - to a degree that
it might make some parents nervous. But that, I think, is part of the
film's rebellious brilliance.
"Where the Wild Things Are", based on the adored and
subversively scary children's book by Maurice Sendak, is about a
kid - but not the precocious, tiny-version-of-an-adult type that
usually populates Hollywood productions. Max (Max Records), a
complicated but familiar young man, has what some people might
call an overactive imagination. His father is gone, his mother
(Catherine Keener) struggles to control him, especially when her
new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) is around. His older sister (Pepita
Emmerichs) tells him to go "play with his friends" although he clearly
When he runs away to a world of imagination (viewers looking for a
more concrete explanation of how the boy ends up among a brood
Where the Wild Things Are doesn't offer
traditional entertainment for children. Max
and his hulking friends don't face an overt
threat. Their biggest challenge is building a
grand fort - and realizing that even it can't
protect them from hurt and loneliness. An
inevitable sense of sadness also pervades
the story, as if Max recognizes from the start
that the fantasy he has created will hold up
for only so long.
Not that there aren't moments of great
elation: My favorite comes when Max and
the beasts finish off a "wild rumpus"
(exhilarating, wanton destruction) by
collapsing exhausted into a warm pile of
fuzzy limbs and bodies.
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. My only main
concernis that the Wild Things' narrative
bypassed the backstory of Max's real
world. The movie would have been more
engaging if Jonze and company find the
Regardless, Where the Wild Things Are
inhabits a magical place - one where a
boy dressed in wolf pajamas can howl at
the sky and not be told to keep quiet.
Overall, it was good, so go see it. It’s very
beautiful, but don’t expect to be totally
moved. Submit to its charms, and you
might find yourself howling along.