18 October 2009

Review: "Where The Wild Things Are"

When I think about the books that represent my childhood, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is among the very few that have immense sentimental value. I have been awaiting the release of Spike Jonze's film adaptation since I first saw the trailer. I have long considered him an inventive film maker, considering two of his previous directorial efforts (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) are two of the weirdest films I have ever seen--but this may also be due to Charlie Kaufman's screenplays. Spike Jonze controversially decided not to use CGI for the wild things and chose to use actors wearing suits--special effects were, of course, used for facial expressions. I think this worked brilliantly because the wild things looked similarly to the way I would have imagined them on screen. Spike Jonze, as co-writer and director, had the daunting task of turning a ten sentence story into a feature film. There are numerous differences between page and screen, but the central theme and emotional core of the book remain present in the film.

Max (Max Records) is a boy who often lives in worlds he created in his head rather than in reality. He has good reason: his teenage sister has grown too old to feign interest in his ideas and his divorced mother is struggling to find a balance between work, dating, and coping with the needs of her children. One evening, after discovering his mother deep in conversation with a date, Max puts on his wolf costume and throws a huge tantrum in the kitchen, which ends with him fleeing the house, too quick for his mother to catch him. He ends up finding a boat and sails for days, through disastrous weather, until he reaches a far away island. There he finds a group of large, talking wild things. He convinces them that he is a king that has come to protect them from sadness. He befriends Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) and Carol, convinced he is a king, crowns young Max and the boy attempts to help the wild things. Judith (Catherine O'Hara, wonderful as ever) is hardly convinced that Max is their long-awaited saviour. Carol is upset because he is unable to express his feelings to KW (Lauren Ambrose), who is unsure she wants to continue living with the others. Max, unsure of himself in his adult-like position, tries valiantly to protect the wild things from all the sadness in the world.

Watching Spike Jonze's interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are I was amazed at
how superbly he adapted one of my most cherished books into a breathtaking film. The film is beautiful, from Max`s graffiti on the production studios' logos at the beginning, to every heart wrenching moment between Max and the wild things, and his mother. Max Records is nothing but perfect in the role as Max, and the character is wonderfully brought to life on screen. Where the Wild Things Are was everything I wanted it to be. It was funny, touching, visually amazing, and it was a wonderful trip back to my childhood.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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