Where the Wild Things Are
Starring: Max Records, Catherine Keener, Lauren Ambrose, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Chris Cooper and Forest Whitaker Written By: Spike Jones, Dave Eggers Directed By: Spike Jones Running Time: 101 Minutes Rating: G (Canada)
Max (Max Records) is an angry, lonely child dealing with the divorce of his parents and that of being ignored by his older sister, Claire. His mother (Catherine Keener, whom I always love in anything that she does) is trying desperately to keep it all together, including her job, her new boyfriend and all the while trying to keep Max’s temper and unruly behavior under control, after all he is still her little boy and knows that he is dealing with stuff most 9 year olds would have a tough time dealing with.
All Max really seems to want is his family back as they were and seems to have no other outlet then to destroy his sister’s bedroom, rant in the kitchen while his mother’s boyfriend is over (Mark Ruffalo) and bite his mother on the shoulder when she tries to control him. When his mother gets angry about the bitten shoulder, screaming ‘you are out of control’, Max, realizing his wrong doing, promptly gets upset for being yelled at and runs out the door and into the woods.
Once in the woods, Max’s imagination takes off as he sails away on a little boat to a far away island. Once on the island, Max comes across the ‘Wild Things’ furry creatures (let’s just say they are very large Muppets!), who are, as it seems, destroying what appears to be their homes. We soon find out each of the creatures represents some sort of element of Max or his feelings.
The main relationship seems to be Carol (voiced by a very recognizable James Gandolfini) who seems to share the same loneliness, anger and need for destruction as Max does. Wondering who and what Max is, we are introduced to Ira (Forest Whitaker) a kind hearted gentle giant with a loud, obnoxious wife, Judith (Catherine O’Hara, naturally!), a next to invisible goat, Alexander (Paul Dano) and Carol’s best buddy, a chicken looking, agreeable creature named Douglas (Chris Cooper). We also notice the bull in the shadows that really only grunts and in which the name I never really catch. This crowd is deeply unhappy, having ‘lost’ (or eaten) their king and one of their own leaving the kingdom. Max, in fear of also being eaten, spins a wild tale about having amazing power and that he was previously king of the Viking nation before arriving. The Wild Things, clearly needing a new king decide to give Max the crown. Once crowned the audience is introduced to KW (Lauren Ambrose) who we see become the relationship that Max so desires from both his mother and sister (or it’s the gentler part of himself, however I prefer the former).
Throughout the movie, Max discovers as a 9 year old does, through dirt clot fights and building a large fort, that you can never make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try and that you really can’t look to others to make you happy. This lesson does not really slap you the face however and is noticed as Carol keeps looking to his ‘king’ to make everything better, to make everyone a family again and realizing that really, Max doesn’t have this power.
I thought this movie was one of the better adapted from book to films that I’ve seen. I mean really, Spike Jones and Dave Eggers took a 10 sentence picture book and turned it into a 100 minute movie with Jim Henson creatures (only their faces were done with GCI) and making them real live entities with real emotions (and the vocal talents of the amazing cast definetly help bring these characters to life). Trust me, when a 9’ Muppet starts to cry, you’ll be crying too! I will tell you however that if you walk into this movie thinking it’s a happy kids movie you might wanna pick another one as this movie is a little on the depressive side, however, I found myself feeling each emotion as the characters did and you realize that the movie is about Max’s feelings, not anyone elses.
I noticed mostly adults in the audience during this viewing. Not one child in sight. However, this is a children’s movie, almost comparable (however not quite) to what we watched as children that let’s face it, were morbid to some degree such as Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Neverending Story. I would suggest however not bringing small little ones with you as they might get a little scarred during some of the rougher scenes.