By Anthony Clegg
Film noir meets heartfelt timeless classic in this emotionally
profound adaptation of the unforgettable children’s standard,
“Where the Wild Things Are.”
The story follows Max, played by the surprisingly expressive,
and aptly named, Max Records, a young boy who faces the age-old
dilemma: Growing up.
Max craves the attention of his mother, played by “40-year-old
Virgin’s” Catherine Keener, who has invited her new boyfriend,
played by “Reservation Road’s” Mark Ruffalo, to their house for a
night of romance.
At this point, Max’s frustration with the world and his
powerlessness over it explodes in a fit of wild rage directed at
his mother, the result of which has Max running away from his home
and his only family.
It is unclear the exact moment it takes place, but during his
flight, the real world ceases to exist, and Max’s imagination
Max inexplicably finds an incredibly small and hazardous-looking
boat, and embarks upon a dangerous high-seas excursion toward the
unknown. Through a turbulent storm, Max spots the outline of an
Upon landing, Max encounters the “Wild Things,” a mix between
fantastic computer-generated facial expressions and large padded
costumes that are evocative of several Sesame Street
These monsters each have their own personalities, which are an
amalgamation of Max’s own personality, fears and loved ones.
The main monster Carol, voiced by “The Soprano’s” star James
Gandolfini, defends Max’s presence to the other monsters and names
him their king.
This newly appointed “King of all Wild Things” soon finds that
maybe there are things in this world that cannot be controlled, and
that perhaps this fact is all right.
Director Spike Jonze definitely brings his own personal style of
filmmaking to this piece, as he did with his other directorial
works, “Three Kings” and “Being John Malkovich.”
Each shot is designed to elicit some emotional response in the
audience, whether it is humor, fear, anxiety, love, instability or
any other swatch from the emotional palette this film presents.
Furthermore, the art design employed in “Where the Wild Things
Are” is simply as astounding as it is breathtaking.
The Wild Things’ houses are large, bird nest-like creations that
form complete spheres. At one point, in fact, Max encourages the
monsters to build a giant fortress made in this same spherical
design, the effect of which only strengthens the notion that the
audience is at the whim of this small child’s imagination.
Music in film can do one of two things: strengthen a film, or
ruin it. “Where the Wild Things Are” is a clear example of the
former. The soundtrack reinforces this overwhelming noir-like
feeling while it also supports the simple yet imaginative state of
As already touched upon, the computer animation in this film is
key to understanding the emotional states of the bulky monsters by
fully realizing their various facial expressions with almost
frightening clarity. This is particularly helpful when the audience
realizes each monster represents something deeper in the story and
they are not present just to fill screen time.
Dialogue is also chosen very deliberately so as to let Max’s
character fully reveal itself. This goes hand-in-hand with the
notion that Max’s period of imaginative exploration helps him to
solve his emotional dilemmas.
This is definitely not a film one can fully appreciate in a
single viewing. Its rich, multi-layered design reaches beyond that
found in the original 1963 work written by Maurice Sendak. This, of
course, may be because Sendak’s work can be read in a matter of
minutes where as the film requires a greater time investment. It
may, however, be because Jonez has taken the basic structure of
Sendak’s classic tale and transformed it into a fantastic piece of
Reach Anthony Clegg at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of Aintitcool.com
Spike jonze and Maurice Sendak make children of us all
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