2.03.2010

Review Wednesday! Where the Wild Things Are

I know it's a little old, but I thought this would be an interesting review to all of you(:

With a tagline of “There’s one in all of us”, Spike Jonez’s film adaption of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are invites people of all ages to embrace the child inside of them. It tells the simple yet touching story of a boy named Max, who dons a wolf suit and runs away to a world of “wild things” to escape a life of being seemingly ignored by his older sister and mother.

While Where the Wild Things Are is a classic children’s book, one may doubt whether or not Jonez’s film was even made for an audience under the age of eight. With a PG rating, there’s nothing present in the movie that would keep children from viewing it, but that doesn’t mean it’s recommended for them, either.

Sendak’s original story, at only 9 sentences, gave Dave Eggers, the screenwriter of the movie, little to work with. Eggers managed to expand the story to a movie spanning a little over an hour and a half, but the question is whether or not he was successful in keeping the original’s theme and feeling. Although at times (particularly near the end) the film recalls the simple beauty of the book, much of the movie is drawn out and confusing. Many of the scenes seem to have no purpose in moving the plot along. It’s obvious that Eggers and Jonez were trying to appeal to both adults and children, but they don’t quite make it; instead, the movie is almost too boring for the younger set, and the only thing that interests adults at many times is the scenery.

Shot with handheld cameras in the Australian desert and set to an indie-rock soundtrack, Where the Wild Things Are is more like an independent film than a mainstream one. This doesn’t take away from it, though. It actually lends a nostalgic sort of romance to the movie that’s completely appropriate considering that many who will see this movie are teenagers who remember the story from childhood. The whole thing is perfectly reminiscent of the original illustrations, from Max’s wolf suit to the monsters and the forests they run through. It’s also refreshingly real, with the use of computer animation limited to the monsters’ expressions. Inside each of the wild things is a real human actor.

And of course, a great deal of credit must be given to the young boy who stars as the self-proclaimed king of the wild things, Max Records. As the only human character throughout much of the movie, Records does a great job of interacting with what are essentially giant puppets. Throw in the fact that during filming, those puppets couldn’t make any facial expressions and one realizes just how much work Records had to do and how well he did it. Records’ portrayal of a lonely and easily hurt little boy is realistic and will have many remembering not only the happy, carefree times of childhood but also how it felt to be such a small person in a world of things much more powerful than them.

Despite its faults, Where the Wild Things Are has been continually praised by critics and viewers alike. Though they don’t look like creatures of this world, each of the seven monsters that Max rules over has a believable and endearing personality. It’s not particularly deep (the parallels between the fantasy world and Max’s real life are pretty obvious), but it’s suitably entertaining for a date or a family with no small children to see. If nothing else, the amazing sets and costumes will keep viewers enthralled.

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