Where the Wild Things Are

Spike's Place


16 October 2009| No Comments on Where the Wild Things Are     by Sean Chavel


Not fun or enchanting, just lumbering, but some audiences reportedly have found it affecting. Movies about isolated, withdrawn and misunderstood kids can either affect similarly young kids in the audience that feel that way. Or they can affect adults that are able to look about twenty or thirty years or so and understand what it was like creating a fantasy adventure on their own in order to escape reality. Where the Wild Things Are, based on a 1963 children’s book remembered by one or two previous generations, is a movie about a misunderstood kid in need of adventure as well about Things. The Things, as in talking feral creatures of an island cut off from everything else.

Max (Max Records) is the 9-year old kid who puts his scribble on everything, like one of those autographing kids trying to scream out “I was here.” He likes to play in the snow, he likes to run after the dog, he likes to build his little fortresses in his room. And he wants somebody to join in on him. Catherine Keener plays the mom, and she’s one of those good moms that wants to encourage her son. But sometimes it’s like enough already, adults need to play their way too, and when mom brings home a new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) it drives Max to insane jealousy. He is no longer the number one attention-getter.

After biting mom with his teeth – which he regrets after the fact – he runs off away from the world and onto a raft that carries him over the dark sea onto the Things island. Max has a crash meeting with these F/X creatures and then convinces them he is King. Finally Max has a clan of people who will listen to him and do what he wants. Voices are supplied by Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara… but the only voice that really stands out instantly recognizable is James Gandolfini who is the grouch Thing.

Assimilating with the creatures diminishes Max’s loneliness, and he is listened to. He is the all-powerful King, right, and nothing can backfire? But the lesson here is that you must keep your ego in check no matter what you’re age or your class title happens to be. There really isn’t much else to the movie other than the island being a cutesy therapy healer for Max, who must return to a family back home that loves him.

And after you are impressed with the textures and designs of the creatures, there isn’t much else variety in terms of things to look at. You’re in a non-descript forest and then a desert region that all looks the same. Spike Jonze, taking a break from sophisticated head-spinners like “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” implements his usual verité dazzle. The wildly untamed camera that jets and bumps around is momentarily eye-popping.

But as it gets redundant you might get fidgety. Some movies prick you up and keep you alert. “Where the Wild Things Are” is the kind of movie that makes you want to watch while spread out on the couch, lying sideways, and take it in like the little nibble comfort food it is. For that 1963 generation, the nostalgia is fleeting.

101 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “Dark Crystal” (1982); “Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1985); “Labyrinth” (1986); “James and the Giant Peach” (1996).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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