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Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

October 12, 2009 1 comment

Where the Wild Things Are

Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.

What do you get when you mix an artistic director, unlimited budget, and cameras that assumedly were purchased from Best Buy? You get Where the Wild Things Are the latest film by the too-weird-to-be-mainstream yet too-mainstream-to-be-too-weird director Spike Jonze.

The debate surrounding this film over the past few weeks has been whether or not Wild Things is a kid’s movie. It is based on a kid’s book. It features a kid. It has a kid-friendly PG rating. But I am here to tell you that this is NOT a kid’s movie. Granted, I am at that awkward age where I am too old to identify a movie that will please kids and too old to have kids that can tell me. However, what are the three rules for a kid’s movie? Bright colors, lovable characters, and an easy to follow plot. What does Wild Things feature? A full spectrum of colors (assuming the entire spectrum is olive drab), frightening characters, and one-liners like the one posted above that leaves even myself scratching my head.

This is the movie for people like me who loved the book as kids and wanted a movie as adults.

Spike Jonze has crafted the perfect story about a kid for adults. Where the Wild Things Are filmed entirely by handicam puts the audience directly in the hero’s, Max, shoes. Every angle, every shot, is filmed down at Max’s eye level. There are no above shots looking down on Max. This is not omniscient, the audience IS Max, and Max is taking us along for the ride.

The story is a familiar one. Max, played by mostly newcomer Max Records, has too big of an imagination to be left alone. Yet his older sister has seemingly just reached that ripe age of “too old to play with my little brother” and his mom (Catherine Keener, The 40 Year Old Virgin) is doing her absolute best to ignore Max as much as possible so that she can focus on her stupid job and her stupid boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

During an outburst at a dinner-date at home with The Boyfriend, Max hops up onto a table and exclaims “Woman, feed me!” and storms out of the house.

And he sailed off through night and day… to where The Wild Things Are!

One thing that needs to be mentioned is Max Records’ fantastic performance. Every director knows the Golden Rule of “No kids! No Pets!” but that sentiment did not seem to phase Jonze. Max gives an almost Cast Away-like performance considering he’s the only human for about 85% of the film. Additionally, the animation of the Wild Things along with the voice acting is some of the best I have seen. There are many scenes where the animation is shown off through shadows and wind where one gets the “too real to be fake but too fake to be real” thoughts. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) create a stunning ensemble of indie-stars.

My only qualms with Where the Wild Things Are go back to the kid-friendliness of the film. Maybe I have read into the marketing wrong, but this a kids book. And it is not like a Harry Potter kid’s book that is also rather adult themed. Where the Wild Things Are is one of those short picture books to put the kid to bed to. Yet the film is very dark and at times scary. And I am hard-pressed to believe that any child will be able to come away with the plot or the theme.

Despite the film not being a good choice for children, this film is a great choice for adults. The “indie-style” filming technique keeps the film visually appealing and the acting is an absolute delight. The best part of Where the Wild Things Are? Fans of the book do not have to worry about the approximately 5-minute story having any parts skipped in this 104 minute film.

FINAL SCORE: (4/5)

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