Saturday, 19 September 2020
Where the Wild Things Are
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Thursday, 22 October 2009 00:00
wildthingsposterLoosely based on the beloved children’s book by Maurice Sendack, Where the Wild Things Are is probably one of the most anticipated films of the season. Unfortunately, a 50 page picture book doesn’t necessarily provide enough source material to keep a 90 minute movie from falling in the doldrums.

The movie expands on the character of Max, a little boy with a big imagination. As the film opens we realize that Max’s life isn’t going very well. His father is no longer in the picture, and he feels neglected by his overworked mother (Catherine Keener) and abandoned by his older sister who is more interested in going out with her friends. When one of her friends knocks down Max’s snow fort, he gets back by wrecking her bedroom and then has a tantrum in front of his mom’s new boyfriend. Ashamed and lonely he runs out into the night, away from his frantic mother.

wildthingspic1I guess that’s when Max’s adventure really begins, although I found these opening scenes far more fascinating than the majority of the film. Max finds an abandoned boat and sails away to an island where he discovers a clan of very large beasts who live together as a family. Well, mostly. One of them, KW (Lauren Ambrose) has left the group, causing them to all be very upset. Particularly Carol (James Gandolfini) who loves KW and is angry that she left. He could benefit from some anger management classes since he takes it out on everything and everyone around him. At first the monsters want to eat Max but he convinces them he has special powers and they make him King in hopes that he will bring everyone back together.

wildthingspic2Where the Wild Things Are has a lot of heart and made me really feel the sadness and lonliness of this little boy. The actors real name just happens to be Max Records, and his performance is fantastic. He conveys all the anger, frustrations, wildness and tumult needed for this character, along with a healthy dose of innocence. I believed his performance. Actually, all of the performances are excellent and the voices of the Wild Things are very natural – a little odd when paired with their very unnatural appearance! But I would have really liked to see more of Max’s life at home since, for me, these scenes really provided the heart of the film.

I loved the film style, and the sets and characters are wonderful to look at but it just isn’t enough to keep things going. Let me clarify that though this is a movie based on a kid’s book, it isn’t a movie for kids. The themes are very mature and the overall tone is kind of bleak. I left the theatre feeling a little sad and introspective. The movie feels long, especially during Max’s time on the island. There just isn’t enough going on to fill in the gaps so the film starts out strong and just sort of loses steam from there.

I wanted to like this film. I love that director Spike Jonze took a chance on making it into something quirky and dark, it just doesn’t quite pull together the way it was intended.