By Dave Campbell | October 15, 2009
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer(s): Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers (screenplay) Maurice Sendak (book)
Starring: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker
Our story follows Max (Max Records), an interesting and tender young boy full of imagination and wonderment. Max has become disconnected from his sister who has left childhood for the teenage years, and his mother (Catherine Keener) is dating someone that Max sees as competition for his time and attention. With the absence of Max’s father due to divorce, we see him acting out emotionally the only way a young boy can – loudly and inappropriately.
After putting on his wolf costume and displaying a “rebel yell” outburst in front of his mom and boyfriend Mark Ruffalo, Max’s mom attempts to scold Max and send him to his room…but Max has other plans. He bolts from the house to escape the elements of his world that make him unhappy while letting his imagination run free and transporting him from the forest and sailing out to sea. Happy to be away and on his own Max lands on the mysterious land of the Wild Things. He soon meets strange beasts and creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as his own.
The Wild Things need a leader to guide them, and Max openly accepts the position by fudging the truth to be crowned king. Max promises to bring all of them together and to make a place where everyone can be happy. Playful mischief and rambunctious behavior reign in Max’s kingdom, but he soon finds out how tough it is when the relationships of those around him prove to be more complicated than he realized.
Developed from author Maurice Sendak’s cherished 1963 book, writer/director Spike Jonze leads a creative team to conceive a beautifully cute, instant classic, that will be among the childhood greats that a kid of the 70’s & 80’s (like myself) have waited to see again. Not since the great days of the legend Jim Henson (The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth) have we seen something so magical and artistic, lacking the clichés of typical family throw away films.
Expanded in depth but true to the original story, Where The Wild Things Are remains simple in plot but big in meaning. The characters are brilliantly executed with Max Records impressively portraying the emotional mind and personality of a real breathing boy who learns the complexities of family and love. The voice cast was also spot on, with actors James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as Carol, Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) voicing KW, Chris Cooper (American Beauty) as Douglas. Catherine O’Hara (Best In Show) for Judith, Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Ira, and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) as Alexander, all giving dynamic charm to their characters who in the book were nameless.
The marriage of live-action puppetry (yay!), spectacular costumes, and unmatched computer animation, melds a seamless product that will have to be seen to be believed. Polished off with fellow writer Dave Eggers (Away We Go), cinematographer Lance Acord’s visual eye, and original music from the team of Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and veteran composer Carter Burwell, the tone and mood are completed with great compliment.
If somehow along the way you’ve forgotten, Where The Wild Things Are will remind you how to be the king of your own imagination.