Our hero is Max, a young nine year old with a wild side that can emerge from his everyday child hood demeanor when his buttons get pushed a little too far. In fact, it doesn’t take much pressure to set the kid off and when Max and his mother get into when she has a gentleman caller over, Max runs out of the house and sails of to a foreign land inhabited by a group of giant monster like wild things. Max quickly becomes anointed their king with promises to bring changes and happiness to their land.
That’s right, happiness, and I think you will quickly find that this film isn’t the fun filled adventure the trailers are selling it as. The wild things are not a happy race of creatures and their defacto leader, Carol, is riding an emotional roller coaster over the course of the film. Elated one minute, angry the next, and moping around depressed the next, Carol, is a fairly diverse and complicated character that is much unexpected for a film for younger audiences. In fact, outside Ira, most of the wild things are grappling with some kind of emotional distress and Max does his best to try and address everyone’s issues though very little is resolved over the course of the film.
Now that isn’t necessarily saying there isn’t some fun action and adventure in the film, there are some quite thrilling scenes to be seen and the overall magic and wonder of the land is a sight to be seen. Once you get the land of the wild things you will get lost in the world that is as bizarre and unique as any world put on to the screen, especially by a main stream studio. The choice to use the actual puppets over CGI pays off in spades and brings so much more to the table knowing that these wild things are really running around with Max. The actors as well in the puppets deserve some super kudos as well as they do some fantastic work that really nails the voice actors’ performances and works perfectly with the CGI work on the faces. In fact the wild things are some of the coolest creatures to grace the silver screen and will live on in the minds of children and adults for some time to come.
The film is an all to brief window into the world of the wild things as Max learns a lot about family and himself through the wild things themselves as each share many characteristics to Max’s own personality. Max uses his time with the wild things to realize the errors in his ways and while he loves his new friends and land he longs to return to the family he left behind. The writers, Jonze and Dave Eggers, did a great job at expanding the brisk novel to a feature length film and the choice to parallel the wild things to Max’s personality not only made each of the wild things unique but also allowed Max to be quite diverse himself.
Jonze should also be commended for creating the absolutely breathtaking visuals he puts on the screen and takes full advantage of his Australian terrains. The cinematography is also stupendous, creating mood and atmosphere with such ease that you could pull almost any frame out of the picture and hang it on your wall.
In fact the film is constructed very well and remains very engaging for as little that does actually happen in this film. There is no real plot or goal here and any plans that come up quickly fall to the way side as Max and the wild things attention swing else where. Jonze also throws in a nice balance of scary situations, bizarre moments, funny comedy bits, and heartwarming scenes to go along with the action and sad stuff to create a film that has a little bit of everything for everyone and will almost for sure find a way to connect to most members of the audience.
Max Records does a great job as Max showing quite a bit of range for a first time actor and giving you the feeling of watching a real kid let loose in this crazy world. James Gandolfini brings so much to Carol making him such a diverse character that can be cute and cuddly and truly terrifying to Max and us the viewer. Catherine O’Hara is the other real stand out of the voice cast as Judith as she wines and sasses everyone in the pack and actually is the biggest proponent to the fear that the wild things very much are willing to eat Max as a snack. Chris Cooper and Paul Dano are delightfully melancholy as Douglas and Alex, with Forest Whitaker nailing the lovable nature of Ira. Lastly, Lauren Ambrose as KW is a bit aloof and out there, but this allows the film to go to some delightfully bizarre and weird tangents that will stick with you the most after the film.
In the end, Where The Wild Things Are is a surprisingly sad adventure but one that forces the viewer to reflect and get wrapped up in these animals lives. Spike Jonze should be heralded for creating such an engaging, original, and unique vision to bring to the screen and executing it flawlessly. Without a complaint to really harbor against the film, I still think its tone will catch you off guard if not expecting the sadness there is in this world. Though don’t let that scare you away as you will be smiling, laughing, and be enthralled for much of the films run time; just know it isn’t afraid to punch you in the gut. I can’t wait to see it again and it is a film that I think will only grow on future viewings but don’t miss this film; it is a truly original experience and puts Spike Jonze at a solid A average for his three feature films; not to shabby.