Maurice Sendak’s classic tale hits the big screen with much anticipation. “Where the Wild Things Are,” directed by Spike Jonze, takes us to an island where loveable, smurf-like creatures parade across sand dunes, forests and seas, far away from the human world.
Max (Max Records), is a troubled young boy who is invisible to his sister and ignored by his mom, who is love-struck over her new boyfriend. Seeking attention, Max decides to cause some mischief one night by putting on his wolf outfit, then howling, screaming and causing a ruckus. When he doesn’t get his way, he plots to run away from his mother and sister during the dead of the night. He runs away with tears rolling down his cheeks — to a place where he finds a boat waiting for its departure. He hops into it and sails for miles and miles away from his home through the storm and into the wild.
Upon his arrival, he bumps into hairy-looking Carol (James Gandolfini), who enjoys destroying forts. The other creatures become angered by his insensitivity and childishness. Max, eavesdropping, makes his debut appearance to the creatures by gnashing his teeth and showing his “wild side.”
Carol is quite impressed. The other creatures huddle up in curiosity and wish to eat him up. Max tells them that they can’t eat him because he has special powers because he was a king of another island once before. The creatures then decide that Max is king of “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Problems arise when the creatures feel that Max plays favorites. Personal problems clash when the creatures decide to have a dirtball fight, dividing the teams and causing each other injuries. Instead of working together, the creatures start believing that perhaps Max isn’t truly a king since he has no magical powers. Max starts feeling lonely and decides to go back home, where his hot supper and mom await him. The creatures tell him to stay otherwise they will “eat him up,” but Max says “NO!” He waves goodbye, with the absence of Carol who is still angered at the fact that he lied to the creatures. Suddenly, the big-furry Carol makes his appearance and realizes how insensitive he was towards Max. He waves goodbye, with tears rolling down his furry-checkered face and gives a big howl to Max.
Although the cinematography and costumes steal the movie, the constant bickering displayed by the creatures overpower the classic story. Their personal issues seem to create a depressing atmosphere, where the audience is often lost and confused. Max acts as a kid-psychologist between the characters, often losing the “wild side” and vigor of the movie.
The creatures become jealous and bully-like as the movie progresses. For most of the movie, the audience either saw Carol biting off one of the creature’s entire left arm, and sobbing like a little baby towards the end of the movie. They also watch Judith (Catherine O’hara) having self-esteem and jealousy issues. Nobody wants to see humongous creatures trying to deal with anger management or emotional problems.
At times, the movie did have some fun, comedic attempts during the dirtball fights and fort-making rituals. The breathtaking scenery provided a chance for the audience to bask in the Tarzan-like atmosphere while enjoying the cacophony of wild creatures scrambling through the forests in search of material to build their forts.
Jonze delivers a delightful cast of loveable characters that you just can’t turn down. Records’ acting is quite adorable. He lives up to Sendak’s rebellious yet heartwarming character and fulfills his duty as the king of all wild things.
I would still give props to the director for being able to extend the seven minute book into a feature-length film. However, several parts were omitted from the book, such as the tree growing in Max’s room, which was quite disappointing.
When I was a child, I’d beg my mother to read Maurice Sendak’s book every night before I went to bed. I’d hide underneath my blanket covers, bite my lip and listen to every single word narrated from my mother. I’d get goose bumps when Max traveled to the island and jumped into creatures with yellow eyes and piercing nails the size of Big Foot. I’d feel the excitement when the creatures “gnashed their teeth” and danced in the moonlight with no adults in sight. And I’d feel the loneliness when Max missed his mom and his warm bed. That book was my “home away from home” —a chance for to let out the wild side in me. I’d pretend I was Max, and that I was the king of “Where the Wild Things Are.” As a child, I could really connect with Max. I was often a tomboy—the one that would always start mischief and a “wild rumpus” in the house.
When I heard that Jonze was going to adapt “Where the Wild Things Are” into a feature-film, I was ecstatic to see one of my all-time favorite childhood books transformed into the big screen. I was curious to see how Jonze would replicate a masterpiece into a visual artistry on screen. Though it was quite a challenge, Jonze effectively probed into the inner-workings of a child with a huge imagination and love for the wild by creating bonds between Max and the creatures, and voicing the message that no matter how old you are, you’re never to old to let out a growl, journey into the sea and create secret forts where only the “wild things” can cherish.
Though slow-paced at times, the movie is still worth watching due to its huggable characters. If you were a hardcore fan of the classic tale and ever dreamt of exploring your “wild side” then it is definitely worth the trip! So start a rumpus, let out a growl and find your way down to “Where the Wild Things Are!”
Filed Under: A & E