Thursday, April 11, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are

The time is now, the place, could be anywhere, Max opens a door with the key of imagination... Well, you get my drift. 

Where the Wild Things Are | A Constantly Racing Mind
Let the Rumpus begin!" says Max, our main character of the film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are". The book, written in 1963 comprises no more than 25 pages of, illustrations, and sparse dialog. The star of this not-quite-a-children's-story is actor Max Records, who ironically plays, "Max." Also, starring are the voices of James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara, and Chris Cooper to name the most prominent. My curiosity was how are the filmmakers going to make this very short adventure tale into a feature length film? The Answers: Using the book as an outline, director Spike Jonze, in collaboration with the Maurice Sendak, created a psychological profile of an ignored, temperamental, imaginative, and lonely little 10-year-old boy. I suppose you could see this movie as the, "author's cut" of Sendak's original story.

So it is in the movie, as it is in the book. Max, ignored by his older sister and his mother, seeks attention by throwing temper tantrums. After starting and losing a snowball fight, which he starts, Max goes into his sister’s room and destroys her belongings. Later Max dons a wolf costume and while his mother's boyfriend is over, Max jumps onto the table, embarrassing his mother, and demands, "Feed me, woman!" During a short scuffle that follows, Max bites his mom, who declares him, "out of control." Running off into the night and across the street to a small lake, Max sets sail to the land where the wild things are. Coming to the island, he discovers giant creatures that seem remarkably similar to the stuffed animals in Max's room. The creatures are destroying mound-like dwellings and Max, happily joins in the destruction. Turning on Max, the outsider, the creatures plan on eating Max, but Max bluffs his way out by, declaring himself their king. The group of "Wild Things," Introduce them self to Max starting with Carol, a horned, hairy, and tall creature seems to be the de facto leader of the group, voiced by James Gandolfini. Carol is a lot like Max in that he is temperamental, moody and his need to have his group stay together and live happily is his driving force. Judith, voiced by Catherine O'Hara, is another large hairy creature, whose prominent feature is the horn on her nose and, her "downer" personality playing opposite to Carol's drive for happiness. Between Carol and Judith is KW, voiced by Lauren Ambrose, she has no horns, the loner of the group, and is happy to seek peace on her own. KW's wanting to be away from the group bothers Carol enormously. A reversal of roles takes place and Max is now in the adult position with these creatures are children, with all the fears, insecurities, and immaturity of a 10 year old. If you watch this film carefully, you will notice that each of the characters represent people from Max's life. Too much psychology to go here, however, this movie plays on many levels. Some of those levels are hits and others are definite misses.

One aspect of this film that I found intriguing is the musical score. Karen O and the Kids work hard to bring this movie to life, although the music is catchy, the length of the scenes tends to dampen the musical effect. The fort building scenes go on forever, once again, the music sets a mood, but the action does not carry the scene.

The photography of the Australian countryside, although not breathtaking, is beautiful and so are the special effects. The suit costumes are a refreshing break from the film industry's addiction to CGI. Lance Acord and Spike Jonze, photographed the creatures in such a way that you feel their emotions, and you can empathize with them.

I watched this movie after being told it was not actually a kid's movie. I was not sure what to expect. I think if this film were for children, it would have been better. I think that the biggest disappointment with this movie has nothing to do with the production values or the acting. What was a classic story of imagination and adventure, has become a deep reflection on a child's unhappiness and ultimately our unhappiness that we cannot resolve in finding that our supper is still hot when we return.

Movie Data

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family, Fantasy
Year:  2009
Staring: James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, Max Records
Director: Spike Jonz
Producer(s)  John B. Carls, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Vincent Landay, Maurice Sendak
Writer(s):  Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers
Rating: PG

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