Where The Wild Things Are is a beautiful film. It's directed by Spike Jonze and it is his take on an extremely popular children's book written by Maurice Sendak.
Back when the first trailer was released to the public about a year ago I remember a heated email discussion I had with my good friend, Craig. He was convinced that the film was going to suck...no matter who directed it. And he's somewhat correct...aside from the fact that not only did the right person direct this adaptation...but, it was Mr. Spike Jonze that helmed the film. You see....Craig is part of a global cult-like obsession over the film. Don't get me wrong...I love the book myself, but it was never read to me as a child. It's only recently that I discovered the book while reading it to my son.
Now, I realize that people like Craig hold a special sentimental place for the book in their heart of hearts...but, to shun something without first experiencing it is kind of blockheaded. I say all of this because I need you to understand that the film is based on a 37 page picture book for kids. There's not much material left for adaptation. It's not like they were trying to adapt Macbeth or some other literary masterpiece. It's a fuckin' kid's book. Ok....so, that aside. I do understand the relevance of said kid's book. I understand completely why it is so loved the world over. Especially while reading it to my son. I just don't get why one would be so man-at-arms about the film. I would say to that person....hold all of your opinion until you see the film...then, you can cry all you want.
After watching the film you will realize that Spike Jonze IS the only person who could have made this film. It's as if he took those 37 pages he remembered as a child and turned them into whatever the film meant to him...as well as making it relevant to anyone watching the film. Where The Wild Things Are is by no means a children's film. It tends to be a bit dark in some places. But, then...the book is a little dark in its literal meaning, as well. I loved the film for what it was. And I'm sure it will resonate to someone who holds the book in their special place inside their heart, as well. Max Records is the kid they casted to play Wild Things' Max. He plays him as if he were the kid Sendak wrote about in the first place. The film has a very Jim Henson feel to it when all the "wild things" are introduced. That's part of the appeal of the film for me. I've always loved films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and felt those films conveyed their stories on a much more personal level. Wild Things is kind of like that...where you don't feel a sense of detachment from an overload of CGI thrown into the film. I think the puppetry and the actors' voice-overs helped keep you rooted into the story being told.
Max is basically a misunderstood kid living with his mother and older sister. He has no friends and seems like that outsider living down the street from you. One night his mother has a date over and Max kind of freaks out....well, his mother (played with loving grace by an underrated Katherine Keener) gets really frustrated with Max and he takes off into the night. He finds a boat at the nearby woods and sails off to an island where the "wild things" live. It is there where he becomes the king of his own land. In the book he basically becomes king and has all kinds of wild fun with the creatures before he ends up getting tired of them and sails back into reality. I personally felt that he's portrayed as more of a selfish prick in the book than in the film. There's such innocent fun to be had in the story told in the film that it would be a shame to reveal it all here. I loved the film for what it means to me as a father reading this book to my son knowing that one day he may discover the film and find in both what they mean in his own heart.
James Gandolfini does a perfect job portraying the violent-yet-vulnerable "wild thing", Carol. I also enjoyed Forest Whitaker's portrayal of Ira. Nice to see fine actors breathing life into these creatures lifted from a children's book.
Where The Wild Things Are is so different from any other film adaptation to a book you might ever see. It's done with heart and soul and is also recommend by Sendak himself. I've read reviews out there claiming that the film feels a little slow and heavy on emotion. I would like to send a special FUCK YOU to those film reviewers because they don't fuckin' get it.
The extra features on the DVD are a little lame. They are mostly Spike Jonze and his buddies having all kinds of "inside-joke" fun....kind of like the extra features you would find on a skate video. But, then....Spike is also the man responsible for alot of the Girl skate video classics and some of the Chocolate stuff, too. You probably don't know what the fuck I'm talking about here. I'm just saying that I wish there were more relevant material found in the extras rather than something you might see on a Jackass DVD.
I would recommend this film based on its own merits. It's a wonderfully enjoyable experience adapted from an enjoyable source. It deserves more than your time. It deserves your love.
9 out of 10
Thanks for reading,