WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Review

by     Posted 5 years, 15 days ago

slice_where_the_wild_things_are_02.jpg

“What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite.
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right.”

- Fred Rogers

It’s okay for kids to have emotions.  They don’t know how to control them and there will be times when they get out of hand.  And while it’s a parent’s instinct to protect their child from harm, to protect them from their own emotions is a tragedy.  Contrary to its unofficial tagline of “It’s not a kids movie; it’s a movie about being a kid”, “Where the Wild Things Are” is a kids’ movie and it’s a movie about being a kid.  Those who say it’s too much for kids to handle can’t say, “It’s a movie about being a kid” since the film is about the emotions that kids feel every day.  Kids can get scared, they can get confused, but they can also identify with those emotions when they see them.  You can identify with these emotions too if you allow this film to tap into that sense memory of childhood; not through nostalgia or regression but remembering an innocence untarnished by irony, ego, cynicism, and all the baggage we take on as we mature.  But healthy maturity, bittersweet as it is, can not be forced nor restrained.  It must have the freedom to run wild and that means feeling a range of emotions including fear and sadness.

Rather than just take the plot of the children’s book and stuff it with filler, director Spike Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers understood the feelings and emotions author Maurice Sendak conveyed in his writing and illustrations.  Their understanding is what makes “Where the Wild Things Are” honest, courageous, heartfelt, and the best film of 2009.

Where the Wild Things Are movie (20).jpgTurning its focus on character instead of a plot-driven narrative, the set-up of the movie closely resembles the book: a rambunctious boy named Max gets into a fight with his mom and then he travels to a land of wild things.  The key difference is that the movie is slightly darker but it’s also deeper.  While the movie has Max biting his mom and then running away from home in the middle of the night, it also has Max building an igloo outside, messing up his sister’s room out of anger, and cuddling around his mom’s leg and making up little stories which she then types on her computer.  This all happens before Max arrives in the land of the wild things and yes, some of his actions may make you uncomfortable, but let me ask a question: does any of this seem like something an 8-year-old boy wouldn’t do?  Can you not fathom this behavior from a child?

It is this behavior which is so crucial to the film because it’s a story about being a child.  The child actor must be completely honest to those emotions because if there’s a single moment where it feels like the child is acting, then that’s a moment where it feels like the actor can’t summon an emotion which should be familiar considering their age.  There is no doubt in my mind that without Max Records as the lead, this film would not work.  I cannot think of a single performance, from an adult or child actor, that felt completely authentic.  It is a performance but one that never hits a single false note and the real emotions Records brings to the role is the foundation of this movie.  Fear, joy, sadness, confusion: Records can do any emotion and it never once feels like he’s acting.  His performance validates the entire movie because it forces the viewer to confront these emotions and they may make you uncomfortable but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong or shouldn’t be allowed.

With Records providing the emotional base, the rest of the movie is free to expand and the result is nothing short of breathtaking.  “Where the Wild Things Are” excels on every technical level.  Lance Acord’s cinematography is astounding.  K.K. Barret’s production design is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  The effort and craft put into the wild things turn them into a marvelous hybrid of CG and animatronics.  The voice actors all fit their characters perfectly, even James Gandolfini who manages to break free of Tony Soprano and completely inhabit his character Carol.  As for the music, I strongly encourage you to watch the movie before listening to the soundtrack.  Before seeing the film, I only listened to part of the single, “All is Love” and it didn’t wow me so I didn’t bother listening to the rest of the soundtrack since all the original tracks are by Karen O. and The Kids.  After seeing the movie, I wanted to buy the full soundtrack because I could now hear those songs in context and know how well they were used.Where the Wild Things Are movie (12).jpg

All of these departments fall under the direction of Spike Jonze.  It would be unfair to call this his “masterpiece” simply because it’s only his third film and I can’t even imagine the imagination he’ll display in his future movies.  I’m blown away by how much he’s grown as a filmmaker since his previous film, 2002′s “Adaptation”.  Before Jonze began directing films, his music videos and commercials indicated his vast potential and I’m ecstatic to see him exceed such high expectations.  “Where the Wild Things Are” is the culmination of his body of work thus far and it confirms Jonze as a true auteur.

Not many movies make me cry but I was blinking back tears throughout the third act of this movie.  There’s a lot to analyze in this film in terms of symbolism, social commentary, Max’s psychology, the portrayal of children in movies and television, and so forth.  From the opening scene with Max screaming and playfully wrestling with the family dog, it’s clear that this film needs to be experienced and to save the analysis for later.  That’s not to say that I left my film criticism at the door but I’ve seen enough movies to know when I’m being disappointed and when I’m being manipulated and this movie did neither.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is not a movie for those who hide under the cover of ironic detachment.  It is not for those so entrenched in their own ego that they must feel superior to everything regardless of its quality.  It is not for the cynics whose myopic worldview only allows for pessimism and condescension.  “Where the Wild Things Are” is for those not afraid to remember the emotions of childhood and for children who not only know fear, but anger and curiosity and sadness and joy and we should trust their capacity to experience them all.

Rating —– A+

Where the Wild Things Are movie poster new.jpg




Like Us


Comments:

FB Comments

  • AD

    i loved this movie before i see it from the trailer that made me cry

  • AD

    i loved this movie before i see it from the trailer that made me cry

  • Richard of Norway

    Damn, that was a good review.

    When I first heard of this movie I thought it was a stupid idea, another “Bridge over Terabithia” or something, and I had no interest AT ALL. But then I heard Spike Jonze was directing and that piqued my attention a bit. Now, after reading Matt’s review (and seeing the 5 clips they posted earlier) this has moved to the top of my must-see list this year!

    Now I’m only debating whether or not to take my kids, and which of them I should take. (I have 5 kids aged from 3 years to 15)

  • Richard of Norway

    Damn, that was a good review.

    When I first heard of this movie I thought it was a stupid idea, another “Bridge over Terabithia” or something, and I had no interest AT ALL. But then I heard Spike Jonze was directing and that piqued my attention a bit. Now, after reading Matt’s review (and seeing the 5 clips they posted earlier) this has moved to the top of my must-see list this year!

    Now I’m only debating whether or not to take my kids, and which of them I should take. (I have 5 kids aged from 3 years to 15)

  • aaronsullivan

    There’s enough warnings from other reviews that have convinced me not to take my 4 year old daughter until after we’ve screened it first. I have a feeling we’ll wait a bit for her. YMMV. I’m also eager to see this.

    I also must say, Matt, that your snarky written voice in most other news posts made me think of you as someone obsessed with ironic detachment. Glad you’ve got a heart in there. :) Nice review.

  • aaronsullivan

    There’s enough warnings from other reviews that have convinced me not to take my 4 year old daughter until after we’ve screened it first. I have a feeling we’ll wait a bit for her. YMMV. I’m also eager to see this.

    I also must say, Matt, that your snarky written voice in most other news posts made me think of you as someone obsessed with ironic detachment. Glad you’ve got a heart in there. :) Nice review.

  • Five Hens

    Although this is being heavily marketed as a kid/family movie, I would seriously caution parents of children under 10 (and probably under 13) to avoid this movie or at least be prepared to deal with the issues it raises. The serious adult themes are confusing and inappropriate for little ones. As an adult I found the movie to be quite depressing and a big departure from a beloved children’s classic. Two words: highly disappointed to say the least.

    We wrote a full review of the film from a parents’perspective right here: http://www.fivehens.com/where-the-wild-things-are-movie-review/

  • Five Hens

    Although this is being heavily marketed as a kid/family movie, I would seriously caution parents of children under 10 (and probably under 13) to avoid this movie or at least be prepared to deal with the issues it raises. The serious adult themes are confusing and inappropriate for little ones. As an adult I found the movie to be quite depressing and a big departure from a beloved children’s classic. Two words: highly disappointed to say the least.

    We wrote a full review of the film from a parents’perspective right here: http://www.fivehens.com/where-the-wild-things-are-movie-review/

  • Five Hens

    Although this is being heavily marketed as a kid/family movie, I would seriously caution parents of children under 10 (and probably under 13) to avoid this movie or at least be prepared to deal with the issues it raises. The serious adult themes are confusing and inappropriate for little ones. As an adult I found the movie to be quite depressing and a big departure from a beloved children’s classic. Two words: highly disappointed to say the least.

    We wrote a full review of the film from a parents’perspective right here: http://www.fivehens.com/where-the-wild-things-are-movie-review/

  • matt

    Great review and I couldn’t agree more. This will be something that will continue to get mixed reviews, much like the book did, and then be seen as a great film.

    It is complex and I personally think the reaction of each person is somewhat of a reflection of their own imagination and how in touch they are with themselves. To say it is not a film for children is false, and to say it won’t entertain adults isn’t true either, but it is not a film for people that aren’t able to look introspectively at themselves.

    The film is honest on every level.

    Whether the viewer is able to be honest with themselves and their emotions is more at the root of each review I’ve read thus far. Someone put it quite well saying, “I don’t ever want to be the type of person that can’t enjoy a movie like this one.” And there is the divide of which applause will reign and criticisms mount.

  • matt

    Great review and I couldn’t agree more. This will be something that will continue to get mixed reviews, much like the book did, and then be seen as a great film.

    It is complex and I personally think the reaction of each person is somewhat of a reflection of their own imagination and how in touch they are with themselves. To say it is not a film for children is false, and to say it won’t entertain adults isn’t true either, but it is not a film for people that aren’t able to look introspectively at themselves.

    The film is honest on every level.

    Whether the viewer is able to be honest with themselves and their emotions is more at the root of each review I’ve read thus far. Someone put it quite well saying, “I don’t ever want to be the type of person that can’t enjoy a movie like this one.” And there is the divide of which applause will reign and criticisms mount.

  • matt

    Great review and I couldn’t agree more. This will be something that will continue to get mixed reviews, much like the book did, and then be seen as a great film.

    It is complex and I personally think the reaction of each person is somewhat of a reflection of their own imagination and how in touch they are with themselves. To say it is not a film for children is false, and to say it won’t entertain adults isn’t true either, but it is not a film for people that aren’t able to look introspectively at themselves.

    The film is honest on every level.

    Whether the viewer is able to be honest with themselves and their emotions is more at the root of each review I’ve read thus far. Someone put it quite well saying, “I don’t ever want to be the type of person that can’t enjoy a movie like this one.” And there is the divide of which applause will reign and criticisms mount.

  • zev deans

    CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE TOO…

    By far the most powerful film I’ve seen this year…
    And it brings to light an issue that is far overdue… the issue of sheltering.

    Think of all the children in movies you’ve seen this year. Or last year for that matter.
    Or the years before. They were written as cute 1-dimensional supporting characters in an adult world… incapable of complex emotions, sexuality, or true anger.
    This is a lie we have devised to convince ourselves that A: these are adult feelings that have adult origins and B: we can hide things from our children that we dont want to think about ourselves, as if we are doing them a favor.

    In fact, all we are doing is leaving them confused about the things they experience and see without anywhere to turn to for answers except the internet and their peers.

    In Jonze’s film, Max is 9 years old. For that hour and a half I was 9 years old again.
    As an only child from a single mother, I cant begin to explain how intense this was for me, serving as a complete flashback and a reminder that I owe my mother the world.

  • zev deans

    CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE TOO…

    By far the most powerful film I’ve seen this year…
    And it brings to light an issue that is far overdue… the issue of sheltering.

    Think of all the children in movies you’ve seen this year. Or last year for that matter.
    Or the years before. They were written as cute 1-dimensional supporting characters in an adult world… incapable of complex emotions, sexuality, or true anger.
    This is a lie we have devised to convince ourselves that A: these are adult feelings that have adult origins and B: we can hide things from our children that we dont want to think about ourselves, as if we are doing them a favor.

    In fact, all we are doing is leaving them confused about the things they experience and see without anywhere to turn to for answers except the internet and their peers.

    In Jonze’s film, Max is 9 years old. For that hour and a half I was 9 years old again.
    As an only child from a single mother, I cant begin to explain how intense this was for me, serving as a complete flashback and a reminder that I owe my mother the world.

  • zev deans

    CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE TOO…

    By far the most powerful film I’ve seen this year…
    And it brings to light an issue that is far overdue… the issue of sheltering.

    Think of all the children in movies you’ve seen this year. Or last year for that matter.
    Or the years before. They were written as cute 1-dimensional supporting characters in an adult world… incapable of complex emotions, sexuality, or true anger.
    This is a lie we have devised to convince ourselves that A: these are adult feelings that have adult origins and B: we can hide things from our children that we dont want to think about ourselves, as if we are doing them a favor.

    In fact, all we are doing is leaving them confused about the things they experience and see without anywhere to turn to for answers except the internet and their peers.

    In Jonze’s film, Max is 9 years old. For that hour and a half I was 9 years old again.
    As an only child from a single mother, I cant begin to explain how intense this was for me, serving as a complete flashback and a reminder that I owe my mother the world.

  • Matthew

    Wow, I totally disagree — I think the film does ask you to read into its ‘deep’
    meanings which to me are fairly pretentious echos of Sendak’s original expressions – a kind of false echo that wants to ingratiate itself to you by being both cloying and intellectual.

    I am afraid this film falls into the same category as the Transformers, GI Joe, and all the other films that are attempting to cash in on our childhoods — I don’t need this film to remind me of what its like to be a child, especially if it doesn’t ‘say anyhting particularly deep or meaningful while walking us through some adults attempts to capture the feeling of benig a child.

    For some real examples of insight and sensitivity, try watching Tarkovsy’s Mirror or Kiarosami’s Ten.

    And next time, don’t be so eager to set aside your critical reasoning – this film does deserve the full attention a critic can give it (unlike a Transformers, which is much less serious in its attempts) but that doesn’t make it successful on its own terms either.

    Besides a few arresting images (Spike Jones is a great visual artist, if not an insightful dramatist) and some funny absurdist humor moments, this movie left me empty and even resentful of what it was trying to manipulate emotionally.

  • Matthew

    Wow, I totally disagree — I think the film does ask you to read into its ‘deep’
    meanings which to me are fairly pretentious echos of Sendak’s original expressions – a kind of false echo that wants to ingratiate itself to you by being both cloying and intellectual.

    I am afraid this film falls into the same category as the Transformers, GI Joe, and all the other films that are attempting to cash in on our childhoods — I don’t need this film to remind me of what its like to be a child, especially if it doesn’t ‘say anyhting particularly deep or meaningful while walking us through some adults attempts to capture the feeling of benig a child.

    For some real examples of insight and sensitivity, try watching Tarkovsy’s Mirror or Kiarosami’s Ten.

    And next time, don’t be so eager to set aside your critical reasoning – this film does deserve the full attention a critic can give it (unlike a Transformers, which is much less serious in its attempts) but that doesn’t make it successful on its own terms either.

    Besides a few arresting images (Spike Jones is a great visual artist, if not an insightful dramatist) and some funny absurdist humor moments, this movie left me empty and even resentful of what it was trying to manipulate emotionally.

  • Matthew

    Wow, I totally disagree — I think the film does ask you to read into its ‘deep’
    meanings which to me are fairly pretentious echos of Sendak’s original expressions – a kind of false echo that wants to ingratiate itself to you by being both cloying and intellectual.

    I am afraid this film falls into the same category as the Transformers, GI Joe, and all the other films that are attempting to cash in on our childhoods — I don’t need this film to remind me of what its like to be a child, especially if it doesn’t ‘say anyhting particularly deep or meaningful while walking us through some adults attempts to capture the feeling of benig a child.

    For some real examples of insight and sensitivity, try watching Tarkovsy’s Mirror or Kiarosami’s Ten.

    And next time, don’t be so eager to set aside your critical reasoning – this film does deserve the full attention a critic can give it (unlike a Transformers, which is much less serious in its attempts) but that doesn’t make it successful on its own terms either.

    Besides a few arresting images (Spike Jones is a great visual artist, if not an insightful dramatist) and some funny absurdist humor moments, this movie left me empty and even resentful of what it was trying to manipulate emotionally.

  • Mayden

    I saw the movie. It was weird. There is no way I would take a child under the age of 10 to see it, and then it would be a downer. For me- the movie was a huge disappointment and I could not disagree with the writer of this review more.

    • Abbey

      wow really? how can you say that? this movie was so amazing. the whole point of it was each wild thing was a wild emotion. when you are a kid these wild emotions are so hard to understand and they’re just roaming free inside you. you dont know how to respond to them when they first start to surface. its an excellent thinking movie as well as a perfect credit to the children’s book we all love.

    • Abbey

      wow really? how can you say that? this movie was so amazing. the whole point of it was each wild thing was a wild emotion. when you are a kid these wild emotions are so hard to understand and they’re just roaming free inside you. you dont know how to respond to them when they first start to surface. its an excellent thinking movie as well as a perfect credit to the children’s book we all love.

  • Mayden

    I saw the movie. It was weird. There is no way I would take a child under the age of 10 to see it, and then it would be a downer. For me- the movie was a huge disappointment and I could not disagree with the writer of this review more.

  • Mayden

    I saw the movie. It was weird. There is no way I would take a child under the age of 10 to see it, and then it would be a downer. For me- the movie was a huge disappointment and I could not disagree with the writer of this review more.

    • Abbey

      wow really? how can you say that? this movie was so amazing. the whole point of it was each wild thing was a wild emotion. when you are a kid these wild emotions are so hard to understand and they’re just roaming free inside you. you dont know how to respond to them when they first start to surface. its an excellent thinking movie as well as a perfect credit to the children’s book we all love.

  • website hosting

    Wonderful submit, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector do not understand this. You should proceed your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!|What’s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I’m hoping to give a contribution & assist other users like its helped me. Great job.

Click Here