When going into Where the Wild Things Are you must remember one thing, this is not the story you imagined it was when you were a kid, this is director Spike Jonze’s (Being John Malkovich) story. For me this was not hard because I was one of the few kids that never really had a special attachment to the book. This story is also not for a new generation of children to fall in love with, this is a film for adults that want to remember their childhood.
From the beginning we are introduced to Max (Max Records, Brothers Bloom), a child that has lost his father, he is losing his sister to adolescence, and losing his mother to another man. Unlike the book, it’s these issues that bring Max to “The Wild Things” rather than an empty stomach and a night in his room due to a little acting up. In fact, none of this adventure takes place in the comforts of Max’s room but in the woods when Max runs away from home.
In the woods he finds his boat and travels to the land of the wild things where you can see a little bit of Max in each of his new monster friends, and its not hard to tell that these new friends are creations of Max’s problems in the real world and the land of the wild things is where Max will concur these problems. This land is beautiful and full of the ideas of a young boy, but it’s not all fun for Max. As the story progresses we can feel the real danger he is in. It’s easy to let yourself go in these emotions because of the over all design of the monsters. This beautiful collaboration of animatronics and CGI is pulled off brilliantly, as each creature is full of so much detail that true emotion is not hard to achieve.
This is where Wild Things really pulled me in, Jonze took an obvious love for the book and made it his own. The story was not that of an out of control, bad little boy any more than it was a statement about the mind of a child in a broken home. When Max becomes king and must take care of these “Wild Things” with promises that “everything will be better” and “there will never be sad times” when these promises start to mix with reality we can see Max start to grow up as he deals with his emotions through this fantasy. It would have been hard to see these changes in Max if young actor Max Records had not shown so much range, each reaction felt genuine as if he was really living in this world. Max was not the only actor in this film, he is backed up by an all star cast voicing his inner monsters. The two stand outs being James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as Carol, an emotional character learning to deal with his own anger and loss, the other stand out was Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) who voiced KW, a caring monster looking for independence.
The only real problem I can see people having with the movie is that it is not for kids, it contains moments of drawn out dialog that will have kids crawling out of their seats. For me though I really can’t say how much more I loved the film, for some it may drag a bit in the second half but with out those moments you would lose key situations that help with Max’s character development. Everything else from this film came as expected from a Spike Jonze film and I must say that I truly enjoyed the ride.
I give Where the Wild Things Are 4.5 “prosthetic bird arms” out of 5