Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

I didn't know what to expect from this movie and I got it. Having seen the previews for a few months, I checked out the book at Borders to refresh my memory. It was a short book, very short. There is a video on youtube that is narrated and uses the pictures from the book and it runs a total of three minutes. So this movie releases today with a PG rating and a running time of 101 minutes. How do you get from that short blurb into something so long? That is where director Spike Jonze with the help of Dave Eggers have to fill in the missing parts that weren't part of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book.

In the book, we know that when Max puts on his wolf outfit he creates mischief. In the movie we see Max played by Max Records that sometimes he wears the wolf outfit and sometimes he doesn't when he creates his mischief. It's not really clear why he's causing mischief, there seems to be several reasons, one of them being daddy issues which seem to be a common reason these days.

Instead of being forced to stay in his bedroom and have it turn into a jungle, Max runs away from his mom played by Catherine Keener. He keeps running and running until he finds the boat and sails for a long time to an island where he eventually finds the wild things. The meeting is rather interesting. The wild things have names, and voices and attitudes and attributes that weren't part of the book. Max reveals himself to them and they make him king after some chit chat.

The images of the beasts are right from the book. Created by the Henson Company, they look great. It's obvious due to the lip movement that these are not audio animatronic items like Mr. Potato Head who is the barker at Disney's Toy Story Midway Mania. The faces are computer generated. For me, they are memorable and I bought it.

The main beasty is named Carol, a guy voiced by James Gandolfini. He wants to be happy, but KW (Lauren Ambrose) left him. We don't know if they were married or dating, we just know that he's upset that she's spending time with Terry and Bob. You'll have to see the movie if you want Terry and Bob explained. Judith and Ira are a couple (Catherine O'Hara and Forest Whitaker). Alexander, Douglas and the one character without a name, the bull beasty complete the menagerie (Paul Dano, Chris Cooper and Michael Berry Jr). Through their dialog, it sounds like they all have issues from not being listened to, to loneliness, to insecurity and self deprecation. Quite a bunch of heady items for a "children's" movie.

The beasties except Carol aren't sure about making Max king, but they go along to make Carol happy. When Max declares, Let the Wild Rumpus start, they go through the forest and start destroying things. I'm sure down the road some environmental group will complain that the movie sets a bad example for kids. Doesn't matter that it was filmed in Australia, they'll complain.

Eventually after a few misadventures and bad decisions, it's discovered that Max really isn't a king. To avoid the emotions of the wild things and the possibility of becoming a snack to one of them, Max journeys back to his home where like all good stories his mom is waiting for him and embraces him heartily.

Some of the set designs are amazing. The look of the world had me going wow! In the previews you see an idea that Carol turned into reality and it looks awesome. The big home that they built makes me wish I could do something like that with branches.

Is this a kids movie? Not really for the small kids. It has a PG rating for a reason. There are fights, people and wild things get hurt. There is talk of eating Max. Some of the emotions that are shown both in the real world at the beginning of the film and those of the wild things themselves might need some explaining. Really. During the first part I thought to myself, this kid needs some anger management therapy. Would I call this movie a classic? No, not in my book.