12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

where_the_wild_things_are

 

Substitute “wild” for “mild”…

Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo and the voices of James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, and Lauren Ambrose. Directed by Spike Jonze. Based on the childrens book by Maurice Sendak

Wow. They kinda sucked the fun out of this one.

It’s been forever since I’ve read Maurice Sendak’s book. My dad read it to me and my brother when we were younger and I vaguely remember enjoying it (as well as the “Reading Rainbow” segment on it). It’s this childhood fondness that drove my want to see Jonze’s movie adaptation of the 1963 classic.

No offense, but I’ll take my “childhood memory” over the movie.

Max is one lonely kid: his older sister Claire is more interested in her friends than paying any attention to him. His mother (Keener) is a stressed-out single mom trying to deal with her job and life as well as the lives of her kids. One night while having a dinner date (with Mark Ruffalo) Max acts up: he screams, climbs the table, stomps on it, fights and eventually bites his mom before running out the door, down the street, and disappearing from sight.

Max finds his way to the water and climbs into a small boat where he heads out into the water and ventures for parts unknown. From the ocean he spots a light in the forest. Might as well check it out…

Scaling up a cliff he wanders into the forest toward the light where he hides, watching the “Things.” One of them, Carol (Gandolfini), is walking around destroying all their huts. Max jumps out into the open and convinces them not to eat him and that he’s a king who conquered vikings. Lacking any real leadership they make him their king. He promises a new world, new adventures, etc., and they take him for his word.

And let me discuss the “Things” for a moment: they’re morose. It would be like a party of severely depressed people trying to “out Eeyore” Eeyore (the melancholic donkey from “Winnie the Pooh”). Yeah, that fun. There’s the headstrong Carol (Gandolfini), the whining Judith (O’Hara), her bore-holes-in-trees partner Ira (Whitaker), low-esteem goat Alexander(Dano), Douglas the chicken (Cooper), and K W (Ambrose) a woman who seeks advice from owls Bob and Terry.

Max proposes an idea to bring everyone together: build a fort that only they can get into. It’ll have a secret underground entrance and a machine that will scoop out the brains of anyone who dares to enter without their consent. Happily they all come together and begin working on fortress.

As a “team-building” exercise, Max declares dirt-clod war, dividing the group into two. They all begin to have fun until someone gets hurt and Max’s position comes into question and his power falters. Max must come to terms and grow up or face the threat of being eaten by Carol.

Maybe in hoping for something great I faulted myself on this one. I wanted something more uplifting, something to remember being a kid and enjoying the book. I didn’t get that from this movie. The
“Things” and Max were stunted in his age-mentality. Maybe that’s what Jonze was going for.

The movie isn’t entirely depressing. There were happy moments but for the most part it’s a depressing movie. Not bittersweet but humbly sad.

If I can say anything good about the film, it’s technically amazing. With CG blending in with animatronics from the Jim Henson company (creators of “The Muppets”), the “Things” are incredible to watch. Jonze went above and beyond in creating characters, nay, a world all to itself. Maybe he gave us all a bit more to chew on then we wanted.

I find this movie tough to suggest. It’s well-made but if you’re looking for sweet, charming, whimsical,
uplifting, and overall warm-fuzziness, it’s not to be had in this one. I’m just sayin’.

My grade: B- (with points for technical achievement)

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