Where the Wild Things Are

19 Oct

If you could watch a child’s imagination for 101 minutes, then you would get Where the Wild Things Are. Now that’s a massive oversimplification, but it’s also what makes both the movies and the children’s story great. What’s even better is that this is one of those rare movies that lives up to, and in some ways exceeds, it’s sources material.

Director Spike Jones does a masterful job stretching the Maurice Sendak book, which is only 10 sentences long and mostly pictures, without over complicating it’s simple, but wholly identifiable, themes. The story revolves around Max, played by Max Records,  “making mischief” in his wolf pajamas leading to his being sent to his room without any supper. But in his room he finds a mysterious forest and a boat which takes him to a land of monster and beasts, whose terror Max conquers by, “by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once”, and he becomes their king.

Jones treats the story just right, expanding on what the Wild Things are without trying to create an overly elaborate plot around Max or his exploits. It’s simply a story of a boy and what his imagination can create, and Jones keeps it that way. But he elaborates on who Max is by drawing out several scenes early on in the film with his single mother, played by Catherine Keener (The Soloist, Into the Wild) and a new character Claire, played by Pepita Emmercish (nothing you’ve ever heard of). The scenes with Max and his family really establish the idea of a frustrated boy in a world that doesn’t recognize him. The reality of frustration parallels beautifully when Max becomes King of the Wild Thing and has to deal with the ever volatile Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini).  It becomes a story of self realization, truly cementing the story as a modern childhood parable.

There are a number of aspects of the Wild Things and Max’s family, but if they bother you, you are thinking too much. This is a story of childhood, from a child’s perspective and as such carries the appropriate amount of mystery and confused wonder that anybody under the age of 10 has on a daily basis, and 25 in my case.

Directed by Spike Jonze; written by Mr. Jonze and Dave Eggers, based on the book by Maurice Sendak.  Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

WITH: Max Records (Max), Catherine Keener (Mom), Mark Ruffalo (Boyfriend), Lauren Ambrose (KW), Chris Cooper (Douglas), James Gandolfini (Carol), Catherine O’Hara (Judith), Forest Whitaker (Ira), Paul Dano (Alexander) and Pepita Emmerichs (Claire).

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