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Review: Where the Wild Things Are by DrChocolate

wild-things

DrChocolate sees the movies I can’t afford to see in theaters and reviews them, so this site can stay more up-to-date.

Where the Wild Things Are is not safe. It is not sanitized. It’s not cutsie and it’s definitely not the product of corporate meddling. In other words its just like the classic book it was based upon. On celluloid, rather than paper, it is a uniquely beautiful film with considerable…for lack of a better term…balls. Spike Jonze has magnificently tread a previously disastrous course – turning a beloved children’s book into a superb full-length feature film. Fiercely original and emotionally unguarded this is easily one of the best films of 2009.

Where previous movies based on children’s books have failed, Jonze, and by extension everyone who contributed to the film – especially screenwriter David Eggers, soars. They smartly keep the subversive verve and raw sentiment of the classic Maurice Sendak book. Jonze, and company, flesh out the rich subtext inherent in those ten famous sentences and use the fantastical framework to expose what it actually feels like to be a child. Through first time actor Max Records, who easily gives the best kid’s performance I’ve seen in ages, you remember the raw edges of childhood. I felt like I was actually inside Max’s head, getting to know him personally. The unbridled joy, the loneliness, that self-imposed pressure to make everyone happy, the fears, the comfort of acceptance, the jealous misunderstandings, and the unexpectedness of the ever-changing world around you – it’s all there, reminding you of why a kid is a kid and how you’ve either lost it, outgrown it, embraced it, or become impatient to it. The film is beautiful in the way it truly humanizes a child’s experiences, treating them with wisdom and grace, and giving them the weight they so properly deserve.

Speaking technically, the movie is a marvel, too. The art direction is superbly abstract and visually arresting. The decision to use nine-foot tall puppets instead of CGI’ing the entire Wild Things (their faces are digitally rendered) was genius. I truly believe that glossily computerized Wild Things would have significantly decreased the emotional heft of their characters and their interactions with Max. Their tactile, fuzzy weight grounds their alternate world making it seem as real to the audience as it does to Max. The voice acting is inspired as well, James Gandolfini is particularly fantastic; the actors don’t sound like they’re on some distant stage vocalizing lines instead they really embody the characters and feel immediate and present.

Jonze, and his singular skills and vision, has created a beautiful, sweet, and yes, wild movie with a deep heart filled with equal parts melancholy and exuberance. Capturing the spirit of childhood, it’s a layered, affecting movie that moved me far more than I thought it would. Immensely recommended.

  • Facebook User

    Man, I want to see that movie. So desperately.

  • Facebook User

    Man, I want to see that movie. So desperately.