“Where The Wild Things Are” is an adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s picture book. It is 101 minutes long, and it is unequivocally dazzling.
Directed by Spike Jonze (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers), this is unfortunately not a children’s film. Don’t expect cute characters and a wholesome story line; instead, expect a film about childhood.
When he was asked about his books, Maurice Sendak said, “They are variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings – danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy – and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.
Not exactly kid friendly if you ask me, and Jonze’s 2009 adaptation is far from that idea. It is grounded with an emotional truth that is inescapable, yet it somehow manages to capture the elusive feeling of what it means to grow up.
At the center of our story we have young Max, played by Max Records, who is a lonely boy who finds solace in his own imagination. He acts out and experiences rage, because he has yet to get a grip on his emotions. In his wolf costume, he sets out to deal with his fury amongst the Land of the Wild Things. When he arrives he is met by the most fantastical of creatures. As figments of Max’s own personality, they teach him how to handle what he’s experiencing and eventually overcome it.
Though it’s a pitch that’s pretty left field, Jonze manages to realize it perfectly in movie version. In Max Records, he has found a superb actor capable of transporting the audience directly into the characters brain merely with a flick of an eyebrow. He is a revelation and anchors the film completely.
Surrounding him, are James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Forest Whitaker who play the Wild Things. Their physical characters are provided by the Jim Henson Company, along with the help of some superb stunt workers. The creatures are wonderful to behold and move fluidly, yet realistically.
There are not enough superlatives to describe my experience while watching “Where The Wild Things Are.” I found it perplexing, engaging, emotionally satisfying, aloof and yet completely intimate. It was wonderful and I look forward to seeing it again.