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  • Where the Wild Things are is a well written, intelligent, and very cold drama about the often challenging interactions within a closed group of people, the complexities of leadership and the cost of selfishness.

    It's not a movie about imagination or childhood at all, and it's only vaguely concerned with themes of growing up, family or maturity.

    It's not wacky or funny. Not colorful or exciting. There's only about 10 minutes of what I'd call "fun" in the whole 2-hour package.

    That doesn't make Where the Wild Things Are a bad movie. It just makes it completely defiant of the viewer's expectations, and thus a rather confusing film to watch.

    The first time I saw this I wasn't sure how I was supposed to be taking things. Was that supposed to be funny? Is she being sarcastic, or serious? Is Max in real danger now, or not? That's not because the movie is actually confusing, but because it all seems vaguely wrong and inappropriate. I left scratching my head saying "I guess that was good?"

    In the end I decided I didn't like it. I felt that this was either the wrong script for this movie or the wrong movie for this script. Either way, it didn't click for me and felt awkward to the end.

    Nevertheless there is quality here, and I recommend you watch it yourself and reach your own conclusion.
  • Quinoa198416 October 2009
    It's taken Spike Jonze a while to write, film, edit and (after some wrestling with Warner brothers over the final cut) release his adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. One who greatly admires filmmakers will wait especially for a filmmaker who takes his time in creating something after years of speculation. Now, the filmmaker who first came on the scene with Being John Malkovich, once again gives me a one-word response with this third film of his: Wow. Hot damn. That's two more. This is, simply, a classic work of film-making, but also on a particular subject that so few filmmakers even attempt to make let alone get right, which is what it's like to really be a child. Films that come to mind like this could also include the 400 Blows, Fanny and Alexander, (arguably) Tideland and E.T. Now here's another, and one that is directed with an original eye and an inspiration of texture and feeling, a look like out of our own wanted childhood playgrounds. Or some kind of playground.

    If you don't know the story by Sendak- and to be fair it's only several pages long and its story was *loosely* used for this film- is about Max, who, not entirely pleased with his life in the real world ventures into the world of the 'Wild Things', a place where he can be king (or rather makes himself one) and tries to create a paradise with his fellow creatures. This is the main bit of what the story is "about", but how it's about it is a whole other matter. It's a movie children can see and hopefully adore, but it's more than that. What it's going for is childhood itself, what makes up a young guy who has little experience in the real world and can only really see things through imagination and in a prism of what the 'real world' represents.

    We see Max in class, for example, learning about how the sun works in relation to Earth. It's a truthful but pessimistic lecture (considering to elementary school kids no less) about how one day the sun will die, and so will all life. This is carried with Max when he ventures into the world of the Wild Things, and when he mentions this to Carol there's a perplexed response to this. "It's so small," Carol says of the Sun, and while it doesn't bother him at the moment it later comes back as a bit of real inner turmoil that Carol can barely contemplate. Or anyone else for that matter. Can one really be expected as a child to understand the full scope of the sun dying out and life as everyone knows it ending? It may be billions of years away, but to a little boy it could be just around the corner.

    That, by the way, is one of the brilliant things about the movie - all of Max's collected experience, and who he is as a person, and what he can see and understand around him in his family and surroundings, is represented in the bunch of Wild Things. All of Max, indeed, is split among all of them: Carol, KW, Douglas, Ira, Alexander, and a particular 'quiet' Wild Thing that barely says a word, they're all Max, and yet because of their split pieces they're never fully whole either. This makes it easy, perhaps, for Max to be crowned as their king (hey, he did lead vikings after all!), and to lead Carol's dream of a fortress for them all where "everything you would want to happen would happen." There's magical moments experienced among them, and all of the Wild Things, thanks to the Jim Henson creature shop work, are all in front of us and live and breathe as real things in this set of 'wild' locations (woods, desert, beach, rocky coast). As soon as you can open up yourself to these being real beings, not just animatronics, the whole emotional core of the film opens up as well.

    But oh, it's also such an unusually, beautifully realized film. From its vivid and in-the-moment use of hand-held cinematography (and, sometimes, the stillness of looking at the creatures and Max in the backdrops), to the songs from Karen O. that are always supportive of the scenes (never the obtrusive kinds in other kids movies), to the complex relationships between all of the characters that one can see reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, it's a piece of pop-art that lets the viewer in. Its welcoming, refreshing and kind of staggering to see someone who knows the way children think, and how we don't have to be a mixed-up little boy to identify and see ourselves in Max (and, also, how we can't fully identify with things as a child like divorce, re: Carol and KW's 'friendship'). Where the Wild Things Are works as spectacle and comedy, and as the best Jim Henson movie the man never made, so it works for children. But for adults, because it's really about *us*, it can work wonders for us too.

    Let the wild rumpus start!
  • karl-prinz17 October 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    When I first saw that Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers were adapting "Where the Wild Things Are" into a feature-length film, one question kept coming up: how do you turn a nine sentence children's book into a movie? Unfortunately, after seeing it, the question remains. My initial reaction was that I felt dazed. Part of this reaction was derived from the awe of seeing top-notch, jaw-dropping CGI and puppetry bring the illustrations from Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book to life. Another part was the appreciation of the fabulous voice acting of James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose, and Michael Berry, Jr., which added depth (and names) to monsters that never spoke in Sendak's book. However, the overriding reason for feeling dazed is that the viewer is unfortunately beaten over the head with heavy-handed metaphors for the duration of Max's (Max Records) time on the island.

    It takes the viewer little time to figure out the role each monster plays in Max's psyche. Carol (Gandolfini) is mostly Max and represents his wildly-swinging emotions, switching from happiness to destructive anger to crushing depression with little warning, while Douglas (Cooper) is Carol's safety blanket and represents the same for Max; a friend who is nearly always obedient and agreeable. In Max's real life, we never see this person, so perhaps Douglas is an imaginary friend in Max's waking hours. At least, we can only hope he's imaginary after seeing how Carol treats Douglas.

    K.W. (Ambrose) is Max's sister, Claire, not only emotionally—both characters keep leaving the "family" to hang out with cooler friends, breeding jealousy in Carol as Claire does to Max—but also physically, as both the puppet and actress (Pepita Emmerichs) have shaggy brown hair, a slow smile, and that all-too-detached teenage voice. Alexander (Dano) is Max's fear and insecurity. Physically Alexander is smaller than the rest of the monsters, which is a nice detail for a character that always feels ignored and attention-starved.

    While the main conflict lies between Carol and K.W., the two most telling monsters are Judith (O'Hara) and Ira (Whitaker). These represent Max's parents. When Max stormed out of his house to begin his adventure, it was rage towards his mother that served as the catalyst, which even manifested itself in Max biting her shoulder. It's no wonder then that Judith displays all the things Max dislikes about his mother: she is the one that doubts him, questions his motives, and generally ruins his good times. If Max had stormed off into the woods after the opening sequence involving Claire's friends destroying his igloo, it would have been K.W. that played this role, while Judith would have been the reassuring, yet distant character.

    Ira is most definitely Max's father, who is never shown in the film, but doesn't have to be. Max obviously longs for him and shows nothing but jealousy and anger towards his mother's new boyfriend. The most obvious clue is that Judith and Ira are the only couple on the island. Ira is a pleasant, lovable character, which is how Max would idealize his father if he was mad at his mother. Furthermore, Ira is the monster that Max goes out of his way compliment—a bit of a role-reversal from father-to-son, now king-to-subject—and Ira is the only monster that Max hugs when he departs.

    It's an interesting concept, turning a children's book into Freud 101, but is seems dark and oppressive. I realize Sendak's book was visually dark, but emotionally is was vibrant and happy, much like the melody to "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire that was used in the trailer. Unfortunately, this film desperately fails to be vibrant and happy, and for a movie based on a children's book that many parents will take their children to see, it's a major flaw.
  • I attended an early screening with my 8 year old daughter; we're both big fans of Sendak in general and this book in particular, and I quite like Spike Jonze as well. But this did not prepare us for the moody, almost downbeat atmosphere through most of the film, nor the sense of immediacy and almost hyper-realism combined with astoundingly fanciful imagery. It is such an odd movie! And yet, when it was over, we turned to each other smiling a melancholy smile and said, "I loved it." The expansion of the tiny story into a feature-length film is so subtle that you barely sense it happening. There isn't an artificial new plot laid over the bones of the original -- it's simply expanded at every turn and very gently stretched out to feature length. The voice performances are wonderful, and the costumes are magnificent, as is the one major visual addition to the material (which I won't give away). Enjoy!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spike Jonze's imagining of "Where the Wild Things Are" is nothing like you'd expect from a film adapted from a beloved children's book. It's dense with top-notch visuals from the cinematography to the incredible fusion of costumes, puppetry and CGI used to bring the Wild Things to life, but its plot is very frank in its approach to anger, sadness and loneliness. It should be noted that this is not so much a children's film as it is a film that children are capable of enjoying. I refuse to insist that this is not for children, but it would be untruthful to say that this is a film *intended* for them. "Wild Things" is likely going to be appreciated most by those who already have experienced what the main character Max is going through emotionally with regards to his family and his peers (the wild things). To put a number on it, I think that -- depending on the child -- kids ages nine or older will not only be able to enjoy it, but take something away from it. As for adults, it should be a touching and somewhat nostalgic filmgoing experience. Jonze pretty much perfectly captures the essence of childhood within the first 20 minutes of this film. Whether it's the way Max (Max Records, who is excellent) looks up at his mom (Catherine Keener) from underneath her desk or his imagination taking over as he sails a toy boat over the curves of his covers, Jonze creates moments that reconnect us to childhood in simply poetic fashion. Immediately we're ready for Max's adventure to begin because he helps us so easily recall that childlike state of mind. After a bad dispute that ends with Max biting his mom, he runs away and discovers the island where the wild things are. If you've seen the trailer, nothing more needs to be said about Jonze's incredible choice to go with puppets and blend in CGI elements to give it a breath of realism. As for the characters themselves, Jonze and longtime co-writer Dave Eggers take an interesting approach. The wild things are voiced by adult actors and give them a sense humor appealing to adults, but give them the social functionality of eight-year-olds. It ends up creating this schism between what we expect will happen (they're going to behave either like children or adults, it can't be both) and what does (they carry themselves like adults, but they interact like children). The results of this concept fall somewhere between hysterically genius and bizarre/random. On one hand their child-like behavior makes for some elegant teaching points for Max and on the other you have one wild thing knocking two gulls out of the sky and then telling Max their names are Bob and Terry. It's simultaneously goofy/immature and completely fantastic. One of the challenges of the film had to be expanding the story to adapt instead of condensing like most adaptations require. Jonze and Eggers use this as a chance to establish the real world issues Max is dealing with (how to handle his need for parental attention and his anger) and manifest them in this imaginary way in the world of the wild things. The scenes with the wild things are very physical, which will help to keep children's attention. They have a dirt clod fight and go running through the forest before falling into a pile (we all know what that was like as children). Some parents who are very sensitive to what their kids see might have trouble being okay with some of the anger and other extreme emotions. If there's one good way to put it, it's that the emotional transitions can be abrupt. One minute is playful and fun, the next can instantly become lonely or sad and then immediately one of anger mild violence follows. Some might wonder why this wasn't catered more directly to kids, but if you stop and think, don't instant emotional mood swings sounds like a pretty spot-on portrayal of childhood? Jonze telling of "Wild Things" is a mature albeit truthful one. This is not pure syrupy children's entertainment. A child should come out of this movie knowing disputes between family members happen, but that it doesn't change how much we love each other -- that it's okay to get angry sometimes, but we should try and understand everyone's feelings so that next time nobody will do anything they regret. That's daring storytelling considering the expectation was for something lighter. Absolute kudos to Jonze and Warner Brothers for letting this unique film happen. You don't see movies about childhood as beautiful as this one more than once a blue moon, which is plenty cause for a wild rumpus. ~Steven C
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Last night we went to see Spike Jonez's film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I can't say that the film was bad. Considering that everyone in our party, who ranged in age from 7 to 42, had an incredibly strong reaction to it, I have to admit that it probably is quite good. It doesn't mean however, that any of us liked it. None of us did.

    As a child, I found the book a little creepy and maybe even sad, but the last images, those of Max returning to his own room on the very night that he had left it and finding his supper, left for him still warm, redeemed some of the angst of the book. Those last few lines left this little reader feeling relieved and hopeful that tomorrow would be a better day for young Max. The film offered no such relief from the considerable gloom and sadness it inflicted.

    In fact, Jonez's adaptation was overwhelmingly sad from beginning to end. Worse, there was a weighty hopelessness to it all. Jonez's characters, whether human or monster were so wholly deficient that they appear forever locked in a cycle of longing for love, understanding and acceptance without any apparent means to make it happen. Not one of them presented the strength in character to make those slight alterations of growth and understanding that would break the barrier and connect with the very creature standing next to him, who although desirous of the exact same thing, is somehow rendered unreachable.

    The effect was so powerful that even the chatty, joyful eight year old girl in our group left the theater legitimately depressed, an emotion that is completely new to her. If the director's intention was to leave his audience with this level of hopelessness, then the film is brilliant. I myself will not be purchasing the DVD.
  • Maurice Sendak, who recently passed away, was one of the most controversial yet still imaginative authors to ever have been published. The stories he wrote are very much like Grimm's Fairy Tales: whimsical and fun, but still dark and threatening. He didn't pander or sugarcoat his stories simply because he didn't feel a need (as well as a rather unpleasant childhood that introduced him to mortality in a less gentle light than most kids, but that's another story). These come through in such books as 1981's Outside Over There, 1970's In the Night Kitchen, and, in the case of this review, 1963's Where the Wild Things Are.

    The funny thing about the latter is that this book is only 9 sentences long! That's a short book, even by children's standards, despite the story being told more with pictures than words. So, naturally, director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers had to go out on a limb with the extra effort if they were to successfully make a movie based on it. The effort is an interesting and impressive venture; No embellishment, no sugarcoating, just a stripped- down, but still whimsical tale of a child's curiosity and imagination.

    The story is pretty much the same: Max, (Max Records, believably a kid), an imaginative, but frustrated kid gets into a fight with his stressed-out mother (Catherine Keener), runs away, and soon finds himself floating to a strange land, wherein dwell creatures that are both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. It's a simple story, but, as said before, they get across a lot with what they have.

    The performances in this movie are stellar. Max Records plays Max as...well, a kid. He doesn't pander to the audience or become cloying and 'pwe-shuss' at any point in the movie. He's angry, bratty, imaginative, playful, greedy, attention-seeking, kind and all those other things a normal kid is. This doesn't make him a bad person, but it does make him humble and endearing when coming across what he sees and experiences with the titular "Wild Things." Speaking of which, these creatures not only look great, but are also something of (which has been made abundantly clear by most of the critics, but it's still there) a representation of Max himself. Take the imposing, but enthusiastic Carol (James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano), for instance. He's Max's pent-up frustration, creativity and longing for love. Loudmouth Judith (Catherine O'Hara, a scene stealer) is Max's brazen independence. Gentle Ira (Forest Witaker), is Max's artistic ideals. Shy Alexander (Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano) is Max's longing to be heard, as well as his fragile naïveté. And the gentle KW (Lauren Ambrose) is the feeling of maternity that Max has not felt from his own mother in a long, long time. Once he discovers these fragments and puts them together, he realizes that there is more love to be had at home than he realized.

    The visuals in this movie are also great. The place where the island is doesn't have any magical places aside from the Wild Things themselves, but its full of trees, dirt and desert plains that are barren and empty. But, it's what they do with it that makes it impressive. They have huts made of branches, a dirt clod fight, long walks along the desert, and even the building of a huge hut. It's so massive, just like an imagination.

    The only problem with this movie is that it can gets pretty depressing at times. It's probably supposed to be pushing boundaries, as the original book did, but the conversations, dialogue and themes can become quite weighty, and brings the movie to a grinding halt. This is especially true towards the end, when Carol becomes more and more savage, and tensions rise between Max and the Wild Things. But, that being said, it does give the movie some conflict and raises the stakes for Max's safe return home, despite his strong bond with these creatures.

    Overall, this movie is, like the book, a portrait of childhood at its core. There's no talking down to the audience, but at the same time, it's more for nostalgic adults than kids. But, the adults that enjoyed the book will enjoy what Jones, Egger, Sendak, and this movie have to say. It also looks beautiful, with fantastic sets, creatures, and characters to ogle at. There's so much love and detail put into this movie that all that can be said is...well...

    I'd eat this movie up, I love it so...even though Roger Ebert beat me to that, it's still true.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The movie is rated PG, but I will say that its dark overtones could be a bit much for really young children. Is it to the point where rumors swirled that it might have been completely re-shot due to Jonze's vision being too scary for its target audience? I don't think so, but buyer be warned anyway. Sendak's book shows a glimpse of temper and anger, a child acting out after not getting what he wants, soon becoming the king of a band of giant monsters looking for direction much like him. These beasts are the manifestations of our sorrow, our frustration, and our demons; they are the voices living within us, kept down by self-control and overcome by happiness and love. However, when those emotions are brought to life, unchecked, the end result can be nothing short of war, retribution, and malice. It becomes the duty of young Max, the creator of this imaginary world, to not only discover the love he has waiting back at home, but also to defeat the anger that has been bubbling to the surface, allowing him to even bite his mother in this cinematic version. We all need some time to let loose and run wild—howling to the moon—it is what we do after the burst of energy subsides that counts. Sometimes looking into a mirror is the only chance we have of becoming the people we should and hope to be.

    Eggers and Jonze add so much depth to the tale, creating a world and life for Max, (Max Records), to take for granted. His father is, assumingly, deceased; his mother, (Catherine Keener), is busy supporting the family when not trying her best to cultivate Max's imagination and court a new boyfriend, (Mark Ruffalo); and his sister is at the age where acting cool for her friends trumps any remorse or sibling bond with a lonely and tossed aside brother. As KW, (Lauren Ambrose), says later on in the film, "It's hard being a family". Everyone is trying their best and working hard to stick together, but as Judith, (Catherine O'Hara), ponders, "Happiness isn't always the best way to become happy". Loneliness is a huge theme here, and we all face it, even when surrounded by people we live with and cherish. To be able to accept others, one must always be able to accept oneself. This becomes the biggest obstacle for Max to overcome, right alongside his fantastical equal in Carol, (James Gandolfini). The two are kindred spirits, wanting to stay in the past where they remember happier times, throwing tantrums and fits if they don't get their way, unknowingly pushing those they want closer, further away as a result.

    It is some weighty stuff to deal with for both children and adults alike; a parable that spans all ages with its intrinsic focus on compromise, sharing, and seeing what is right in front of us for the pure gift it can be. Kudos to the filmmakers for never shying away from the darkness that inhabits each and every one of us; when the world begins to crumble, characters get angry, cause destruction, or cower in fright at what may happen next. We all fear the unknown, we all get scared when we see someone we love in trouble, but sometimes we forget that those by our side fear for us too when it is we who are lost. The true success of this story and film lies in the little things, like Alexander, (Paul Dano really adding some feeling to this ram-like beast), and Douglas, (the always wonderful Chris Cooper), knowing the game going on with Max, but trying their best to let the others be happy, even at the detriment of their own joy. Here are the two unselfish creatures in a land of egos. The other "wild things" prop up the film as well, however, in their vocal performances as well as puppetry. If you ever thought that costumed monsters from Jim Henson Studios couldn't make you cry, or at least feel something, you will know they can before the end credits roll.

    Where the Wild Things Are needs these fantastical beings to have the emotional range of a human being in order to succeed. It also needs young Max Records to bear a large portion of the weight on his shoulders; he is alone on screen with the "wild things" for about eighty percent of the film. I will admit to being pretty confident on the first point, but a bit skeptical on the second after watching the trailer, (how beautiful is that mini-movie with Arcade Fire playing in the background?). However, I was completely wrong about Records, because his innocence is what keeps this tale pure. His childlike expressions of joy and fright are utterly realistic, taking him on a journey inside himself, discovering what it is to grow up and accept responsibility for oneself and those around him. As for the wild bunch of half animals/half humans—they are absolutely brilliant. The art direction is phenomenal and the use of practical effects meshed with CGI, (mostly in the faces), provides a sense of realism that fully computerized beings never could. Heck, even that Karen O soundtrack that I was so disappointed in last week became a magical score that breathed life into this classic story. I truly believe this film will become the treasured piece of art that its source material has. It deserves all the praise it gets for its ability to touch each audience member to the core, without ever preaching. It will touch you on a level so pure that you won't know what hit you, and you'll be remembering it hours afterwards, wanting to find that person you love so as to give them a hug to let them know how important they are to you.
  • BSHBen11 November 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    "I have a vision of eight-year-olds leaving the movie in bewilderment. Why are the creatures so unhappy?" – David Denby from the New Yorker

    I'll start by admitting that I had very high expectations for "Where the Wild Things Are." Though I loved the book as a child I never developed a particular attachment to it. Rather, I was impressed with the audacity of the concept of adapting such a short story into a feature length film, though including a version of Arcade Fire's brilliant "Wake Up" in the preview certainly didn't hurt. I had a mixed reaction to the movie – in terms of quality I found it to be the utterly lopsided. The first half it all the right notes, eloquently capturing a child's perspective and achieving a perfect balance between the wonder of the creatures and the setting and the underlying layer of sadness. For an hour "Where the Wild Things Are" is a masterpiece. The second half, unfortunately, scraps everything but the sadness. The creatures cease to be interesting. The charm and humor disappear. I understand that Spike Jonze is trying to say something deep and meaningful about leaving childhood, understanding the limits of imagination, and learning the difficulty of pleasing other people, but the point is as subtle as a charging rhino. I haven't seen this much moping since Hayden Christianson in Attack of the Clones. It's like halfway through the production Spike Jonze left to be replaced by Thom Yorke.

    The best part of the film is the first fifteen seconds. We see Max (Max Records) in his wolf-pajama costume chasing a dog around the house, and the movie pauses on a blurred close-up on his face. It's a delightful moment. Let me say something about Max Records. He's absolutely amazing in this film. He crawls, runs, and speaks the way a child would. Watch him wield his staff as king, or listen to how he explains his unlimited powers. Even when the rest of the film doesn't work Max Records is always in top form. Jonze's chief accomplishment is in capturing Max's point of view. As he crawls around an 'igloo' he build at the start of the story, the camera is close enough to make us feel like we're inside of it, too.

    The introduction of the 'wild things' works just as well. The creatures are magnificent creations. They are CGI-enhanced giant puppets, but never for a second do we question their physical existence. They are alternately amusing, sympathetic, and scary. Max proclaims himself a king, dons a crown, and the fun begins. There's a delightful sequence where the wild things jump all over the place, eventually landing in a huge pile in perhaps the most magnificent effect in the movie, which is significant praise as every special effect looks great.

    The setting is impressive. The cliffs and trees of the island dwarf Max. The island fades into a desert where an old English sheepdog wanders for no apparent reason. It's a great effect. The fort that Max has the wild things build is awing and creative, as is the miniature city constructed by wild thing Ira (voiced by James Gandolfini).

    Jonze imbues these early scenes with some significant dramatic elements as well. Max throws an tantrum early in the film, and it feels appropriate. Curiously, the wild things start off with problems of their own. They're an unhappy, bickering bunch who've apparently eaten all of their past kings.

    Max decides to organize a 'good guys' v 'bad guys' fight, an obviously awful idea that, once again, feels appropriately in character, but it's here that the film starts to fall apart. The fight, though fun (and visually spectacular) goes out of hand. Many of the wild things become angry or hurt. Fine. It's just that the wild things whine incessantly. Everyone's mad off all the time. Ira destroys his own model city. Max fears for his life. One wild thing's arm gets ripped off. I'm serious about that. The sadness is so over-the-top that it approaches parody. It gets tiring. The most egregious scene occurs when the wild things ask Max to prove his powers and act disenchanted when he cannot. The problem is that whole sequence is beside the point. The wild things aren't supposed to be rational beings who question that sort of thing. The effect is devastating to Max and the viewer. When he leaves his motivation seems to stem less from homesickness or character development than from simply wanting to get away from these angry monsters. We get the impression that everyone has had a rather miserable time. We sure have.

    Maurice Sendak has praised Spike Jonze's film for keeping the essence of the material and expanding upon it. I disagree. I think the first half did that but that the second half was overfilled with boring character conflict. Two things were continuously phenomenal: Max Records' performance and the special effects. Once again, I understand the point of the darkness. "Where the Wild Things Are" is meant to be a multilayered, bittersweet story. Jonze was on the right track for a while but the essence of childhood captured so well early was replaced with waves of depression. Childhood can be sad. Jonze knows this and relates that fact well with Max's early tantrum. Pleasing everyone is difficult. Max learns that. Again and again and again and again and again. The simple fact is that this film's wild things have serious emotional issues far in excess of what the story requires.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film jumps around between gravely disturbing, mind-numbingly tedious, naively innocent, and severely depressing. Our nearly seven-year-old daughter and her friend were bored to tears, our two-year-old was freaked out, and our whole family felt simply awful afterwards. What a waste of time, money, nerves, and my 35th birthday!

    (Warning! Minor spoilers follow—as if anything could spoil the viewing of this movie more than the movie itself.)

    The film's main message seems to be that just because your parents get divorced, or your monstrous girlfriend moves out, or your older sister starts hanging out with other friends instead of you, or your mom starts dating again, or, worst of all, she decides to cook frozen corn instead of "real" corn ... does not mean that it is acceptable behavior for you to trash someone's bedroom, bite someone's shoulder, destroy someone's house, or tear someone's arm off. If only you would finally pull back that wolf hood and realize that your demented actions have exhausted your poor mother (and an entire audience).

    The filmmakers somehow manage to deliver their message in a simultaneously heavy-handed and vague way. Most viewers will not grasp it, and those few who do will probably not have need of it. If you dare watch this cinematic abomination—which life-sucking action I would never recommend—please understand that you will be subjected to displays of emotional instability the likes of which have not been witnessed since Anakin Skywalker graced the screen. At least Anakin had a cool lightsaber to vent his frustrations; besides using a fork and his teeth, our dear friend Max can do nothing but track snow into the house, defiantly stand on the kitchen counter, and conjure up a pile of dysfunctional overgrown tater tots (and a goat) to help him explore every ugly facet of his consciousness.

    You should also be prepared for some ambiguity: I believed for an overlong period that Max's older sister was actually some across-the-street neighbor that Max had a crush on, so imagine my surprise when Max's mother suddenly asked the girl to clear her things off the table for dinner! Another confusing bit is the fact that the main tater tot-creature is named Carol even though he is male, and this character is first seen when he is destroying houses for a reason which will remain unclear unless you can decipher his shouts amidst all the bangs, booms, and gnashing of teeth.

    The movie has an air of being steeped in symbolism or in child psychology, but really all that comes across is alarming juvenile psychopathy with a shallow, incomplete, and one-sided resolution.

    Several inconsistencies appear in the film, the most upsetting of which has to do with physical injury. When one character is sharply struck with a dirt clod, his resulting wound and suffering are clearly evident; yet when another character loses his arm in a scene which is not graphic but still gruesome, the filmmakers conveniently gloss over any expected pain and replace it with a cheesy joke. How inappropriate and insulting!

    The movie is not at all a delightful adaptation of a beloved children's book. It provides absolutely no entertainment for children or adults. Its seeming claims to educational value are far from viable. It embodies a perfect recipient of the complaint relegated to poor films: "That's two hours of my life I'll never get back!"
  • A beautiful, audacious, roughly-hewn motion picture (adjectives that are no doubt overused in describing the picture's modus operandi), Spike Jonze's adaptation Maurice Sendak's adored children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" taps into the innocent, volatile world of a 9 year old boy the way few mainstream feature films have. It is original, unique, melancholy, and because of this several mainstream critics (and even lucid critics like Salon's Stephanie Zacharek) have derided the film. "There's no story"; "kids won't like it"; "it's an adult film about children, not a children's film"; "it's boring"; "the pacing is slow"...

    What? Why did it become such a crime to make an abstract art film within the spineless confines of the Hollywood system? Doesn't Spike Jonze get credit for personalizing, therefore, retaining a substantial amount of voracity while delving into one of the most revered children's books of the last fifty years? What the hell is wrong with that? I understand that some people just don't respond to the abstract, pseudo-verisimilitude of pretentious art films, but there's a stripped-down purity to this picture that cannot be denied. It's not pretentious, but emotional and honest.

    It's bold, it takes chances...why is it being chastised in the media? How often do we get movies like "Where the Wild Things Are"? It should be celebrated, not snidely dismissed (Ex. Lou Lumenick, NY Post).
  • Where the Wild Things Are, one of the most beloved children's books, comes to the big screen in one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Spike Jonze, the man responsible for Being John Malcovich, Adaptation, and several Beastie Boys music videos including "Sabotage", brings the tale to life. I must admit, I have been anxiously awaiting this film for several months, something I don't like to do too often as it sets up for a potential major let down.

    Well, that didn't happen this time.

    We follow Max (Max Records), a boy who is lonely and misunderstood. His sister doesn't pay attention to him, his mother is busy with work and her boyfriend, and he has worries at school. All he wants is attention and to belong. One night, he finally breaks and runs away. He makes his way to the woods and to the waters edge. There he finds a small boat and set out on the open sea, leaving everything behind him.

    He comes across an island and goes ashore. There he finds a group of monsters in turmoil. Max seizes his opportunity and confronts the group. He tells them that he is a great king and help them solve their problems.

    I don't want to give too much of the story away because I feel like telling it would ruin some of the magic. This is one of the most visually pleasing films I have seen in a long time. Jonze filmed in Australia. We are given vivid landscapes of lush forests, arid deserts, and beautiful shorelines, culminating in an almost Lord of the Rings like experience. These spectacular settings would rarely be beaten in magnificence in another film, but here they come second to the unbelievable special effects used for the monsters.

    There are seven monsters on the island. Carol, Ira, Judith, KW, Douglas, Alexander, and The Bull. They all have unique features and are of massive size. Jonze could have gone two ways here. He could have completely made them all CG or he could have gone Jim Henson and turned them into Muppets. Instead, he carved a third path and combined the other two options. Max is able to interact extremely well with the gigantic puppet/suits, but the faces are edited with computer graphics, giving them startlingly realistic features and expressions. Making these monsters any different way would have been disastrous.

    Another key aspect of the monsters is giving them a voice. Jonze chose excellent voice actors with James Gandolfini, Forrest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara, Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano, and Chris Cooper. They each have their own personality that compliments their physical and emotional characteristics.

    Aside from the monsters, I was very impressed with Max. He is asked to do a very demanding thing: be a kid. That sounds easy, but it is very easily messed up. I'm interested in finding out how much freedom Jonze gave Records in certain scenes that called for him to go "wild". I can imagine directing young actors is not the easiest thing to do, but sometimes you catch a break when you get a talented one.

    Giving life to these characters is a spectacular screenplay by Jonze and Dave Eggers (who wrote Away We Go). Their writing speaks to both kids and adults, using language that is meaningful and easy to understand. The things Max goes through every child feels growing up: loneliness, fear, belonging, etc.

    There is so much to love about this movie. It speaks to the heart. But before you head out with the whole family, heed this warning. Some parts of this film might be too intense for younger audience members. Certain scene involving the monsters might be a bit too overwhelming. Yes, these monsters are friendly, but they are monsters, meaning they are large, intimidating, and somewhat scary.

    Where the Wild Things Are will satisfy, entertain, and open your eyes. Spike Jonze poured everything he had into this film and the wait was well worth it. I hope you will fall under its spell just as I did.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a child i remember reading "Where the wild things are" many, many times. When i discovered that there was a movie in production, i couldn't wait to see it.. i even followed it on twitter! After watching the movie, i can say that i am deeply disappointed with it. What a major letdown! Firstoff, i'd like to say that this movie did not follow the book! i understand the book was short, but come on, at least it kinda made sense! this movie is possibly the worst movie i've ever seen! i was sitting in the theater with my friends, who were all fans of the book, and we were all lost halfway through the movie!I found quite a few flaws with the plot of the movie: Not all the monsters are as wild as max himself, Carol's model of the island did not actually match the island, when Carol's face is stepped on, it's a big deal, but when he pulls off Douglas's' arm, it's no biggie, Max never solves any of the monsters problems by the time he leaves, in fact, he makes it worse, why didn't the monsters respond after Max made the snow fall after doing his dance, it is never explained what Carol has against Terry and Bob, or why he can't hear them, it is also never explained what is going on between Carol and K.W., also, unlike the book, the movie doesn't accurately portray Max's personality, it is never explained why don't the monsters try and eat Max when he was one of the worst kings the ever had, what's the big deal with a king's secret chamber, and finally: WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE GIANT English SHEEPDOG?!? In one part of the movie, you can even see someone's fenced-off estate, I THOUGHT THIS ISLAND WAS SUPPOSED TO BE WILD!!! This movie sucked... i want an hour and a half of my life back.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Seriously, that was one of the most bring you down, feel bad, downer movies I have ever seen. I honestly didn't get it. The wild things were mean to each other, the wild things were mean to the boy, no one was happy (especially my kids), the wild things had scowls on their faces the whole time and walked around in a kind of trance like state glaring and yelling at each other. If there was ever a hint of happiness it was quickly followed by some rude remark or mean comment to stifle the mood. I kept thinking to myself, "why did he do that" or "why did he say that", it made no sense.

    The movie begins with the boy being mistreated by his sister, and then yelled at by his mom so he runs away. Then the sad feelings continue as the wild things act the same way towards each other. At one point when, Carol, goes completely bonkers and rips the arm off of his 'friend' and then tries to hit Max and then chases him through the woods, I felt like I HAD taken my kids to Saw!

    If you've ever had any negative, sad, depressing or horrible experiences during your childhood/adolescence, then go see this movie, and they will all come flooding back....
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Incredible that so many people have well received this film -- it is long, dark both in visual terms -- but even worse, it is dark in emotional terms. "Where the wild things are" turns out to be a place where the animals/monsters are all passive/aggressive depressives. How do you take one of the best visualized children's stories that has only a couple of hundred words of text into a feature length movie? Answer: you don't. For whatever whimsy the book contains, it is distorted into a singular, overlong and morose personal version. I found the angst of the characters to be completely unengaging and most of all boring -- as did my four year old. Fantastic Mr. Fox is an incredible contrast -- wonderfully visualized with sufficient intellectual content to carry a feature length film -- and most importantly, upbeat and positive in outlook. The monsters in "Where the wild things are" really are analogues for unhappy, bitter adults with deep emotional problems -- YUCK!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What a horrible, horrible vision!! Spike Jonez and Dave Eggers blasphemously stripped the wild anarchic primal JOY of the book and replaced it instead with a movie awash in sad greys, dysfunction and overly "talky" neurotic "wild things".... it was like watching some God- awful existential flick at your local art-house that was trying to be all deep and profound and instead just bores you to death.... i mean, how could they have got it SO COMPLETELY WRONG?????

    There was no wild rumpus, no primal howling at the moon, no bedroom that transcendentally turns into a jungle, no fun ..... instead there is just anger, depression and an overwhelming tone of GLOOM....

    my seven year old ( who loves SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, HARRY POTTER, CORALINE, etc and is not one who frightens in movies easily ) absolutely hated it as well, and was so disturbed when the one wild thing tore the arm of off the other that he wanted to leave....
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I remember reading the book that was the basis for this movie when I was a child. It looked like a fun book for a kid when I looked at the cover illustration but when I read it, it came across as silly nonsense that I soon found boring. Now warranted most kids books of that nature are written for the under 10 set and usually full of funny goofy stuff but to me the book was not full of the fun kind of imagination or silliness rather a weird dull boring daydream , especially the child wearing the ridiculous wolf costume - where it came from and why he had it is not explained in the book.

    Now on to the review of the film.I caught this movie when I was in a club this past weekend that shows movies in the back area, usually the newest DVD releases. It was free so I figured why not watch. The movie is one big long mess. Max is not like he is in the book, rather than being portrayed as a mischievous daydreamer, he comes across as a neurotic schizophrenic who suffers from ADD and multiple personality disorders,he also looks like he's on drugs half the time. In the movie's opening prologue he chases his dog around and grabs it by the neck and jerks it around while growling and wearing the stupid wolf costume -whoa now that was disturbing.He looks as if he's going to break the dogs neck. Then a whole story of feeling ignored from his mother and sister which seems to cause his bizarre behavior and drives him to bite his mother and run away , this after standing on the kitchen table and exclaiming to his mother "Feed me woman" which totally embarrasses the mothers bf. Evidently the boy feels that since he has no father anymore(I can't remember if his parents are divorced or the father died) , he feels jealousy and is also to me selfish of his mothers feelings ,wanting her attention all the time. He even trashes his sisters room , I will sympathize with him there, a scene in the film has him in what starts out as a fun snowball fight with some of his sisters male friends, however it turns serious when he tries to hide in an igloo and the larger boys jump on it ,almost crushing him.They watch him cry and walk away -barely even caring whether or not he got hurt His sister does not even run over to make sure that he is OK , she simply shrugs in annoyance and rides off in the car with them.

    I thought that the reworking of the story in this way was unnecessary. It made it seem mean spirited and basically turning it into a neglected child feel sorry for him rather than a typical naughty 10 y/o who gets punished for chasing the dog around and basically being a brat. Max is a really scary child in this movie. I don't know why the producer and writers made him a little nut-job. The monsters on the island are nothing more than large Muppet like creations and I soon felt like I was watching an episode of the Muppet show. It plods and drags and you want it to just end already. Most of the dialog is utter nonsense ,even for a child -to say lets build a fort and then a robot and then lets make a TV that shoots rockets that will serve us ice cream. Where did they come up with this crap. I cant imagine any kids over the age of 8 that would find any of it amusing or even interesting. By the time the movie ends and he goes back home , you feel like you just sat out in the woods watching the grass grow for an hr and 40 minutes.

    I don't understand all these awards and such for it - it seems that a lot of really bad movies come across as creative or inspiring or that its such a wonderful storytelling thing when to me its utter nonsense and stupid. 1 out of 10.
  • Running Time: An hour and a half MPAA Rating: PG Max is angry. He is imaginative and rambunctious, but he has no control. He knows that, like the sun, one day his energy will run out and he'll fade away. These are difficult thoughts for a young boy who already has the dilemmas of his age to deal with. Many people learn to cope with life's troubles in their own way, and Max does so by becoming a wild thing.

    The movie adds some unique elements to the original Maurice Sendak storybook. Max's behavior is given a cause and his trip into the land of the wild things is given a purpose. Each of the creatures has a unique personality derived from Max's experiences with people in his homeland. Carol (played by James Gandolfini), whose anarchic and misunderstood nature Max immediately identifies with, specifically seems to provide the boy a means for coming to terms with the father now missing from his life.

    What really brings this film to life is the music. Written by Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), the songs provide a youthful vigor that complements the action on screen. It was built from scratch for the movie and great use within each context shows. Energetic tracks filled with wild instrumentation and playground yells lend credence to the playful scenes in the movie, and Karen O's soft vocals fit in perfectly with the sentimental points.

    Book purists won't be pleased to learn the extent of added material, of course, but may find comfort in the heavy involvement of the original author in the making of this film. Spike Jonze was specifically given the permission of the author, who had previously seen and highly regarded his work. Although this film does take much of the mystery and imagination out of the hands of the viewer, Sendak has given his personal approval of the interpretation after viewing the final product.

    In the end, this movie wasn't quite what it could have been. It loses some of its steam toward the middle, when certain scenes feel as though they've been drawn out as long as possible to give the movie a bump to above the acceptable hour and a half mark. There are more shaky-cam running scenes in the film than an episode of "24", which could have easily become redundant and intolerable had it not been for the expressive and enthralling soundtrack. Fortunately, the movie manages to work as presented, and members of the audience may be inspired to search out the wild things within themselves once more.

    The easily queasy should be warned; much of this movie is shot by hand-held camera, leading to what has become known as the "shaky-cam" effect. This can work out of some viewers' favor, but shouldn't provide a problem for the majority of audience members.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I can't imagine for whom this film was made. Adults (except those few deviants who are into the "furry" thing) typically do not enjoy animated stuffed animals bemoaning adult problems while pretending to be child-like monsters. Children cannot understand, nor should they, the sexual frustrations of communal life. This film presents both, in such a context as to negate all ages from watching it.

    Max is not a "disobedient" child. He's a misunderstood terror who only needs his mother to communicate with him in order to behave himself. She's got men over and is drinking and not even saying, "Oh son, I've invited someone over. There will be alcohol. Perhaps you would like to take your dinner in your room?" He is put in one awkward situation after another by a selfish and self-centered mother, and is expected to just deal with it. Frankly, I don't know what kind of mother Spike Jonez had, but if this film is any indication, I don't care to meet her.

    This entire work was done from a perspective of a sexually frustrated individual who is not only jealous of his mate, but of everything and everyone around him to the point of not being able to live a productive life. This wasn't fun. It wasn't amusing. I was not entertained. It's troubling, confusing for children, confusing for adults (as in WTF?), and overall pretty pathetic.

    This isn't worth your time. Sad, really. This should have been something magical.

    It rates nothing from...

    the Fiend :.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched it last night with my husband and son, and all three of us were completely disturbed by it. Maybe I missed the symbolism, but I hated it and found it so confusing. Without a doubt it was the worst movie I have ever seen.

    The kid (Max) had something friggin wrong with his head. He was insane! He would go from happy, to crying, to yelling, to breaking things, to bored, to PLAYING WITH HIS MOM'S FOOT (wtf), and he always had a weird look on his face. And his mom was too busy with work and bringing her "friend" over to notice her son was a mental case. Max is destructive and bratty and needed some serious mental help. Everything about him was so depressing.

    As soon as he enters his little monster world, the story jumps all over the place and a bunch of random, semi-violent, unfollowable things happen. I thought if I watched it all the way through, it would end happy and it would start making sense, but it didn't! It was just awful. If you want to take your kids to see a happy movie, don't choose this one. It was boring, depressing and made no sense.

    The directors of this garbage-dump need a slap in the head for destroying such a wonderful children's book.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Where I blew my two hours was in the theater seeing this. I really didn't take to this movie much. The opening was okay with the little song and all. But after that it pretty much went downhill fast. The kid Max is just portrayed as a spoiled brat and it's too bad he's not likable. He just gets on your nerves. You just don't want to spend time in this kid's illusion world.

    Aside from that, the monsters were too goofy to be scary, and not even goofy enough to be funny. The voices the monsters had were mostly bad and took me out of it. Also, the mother was not very good actress and neither was anyone else, really. It was just really not a good movie, except for the first five minutes. I'd say skip it unless you absolutely love the book and can't stop yourself, but otherwise not recommended. 2/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Max is a little boy (10 yr old, I think) and he is a loner, as in he doesn't have any friends and he wants to play games with his sister, who's a teenager and doesn't have time for Max. Max builds an igloo and his sister's friends destroy it while fooling around and he is very sad and angry, so he wrecks his sister's room as she doesn't do anything about it and goes with them ignoring him. His mom is sweet and she cares for him and loves him very much. When she has her friend over, Max behaves recklessly and bites her. She is angry and shouts at him as to what is wrong with him, and that's when Max runs away from the home in his wolf costume. He boards a small boat, goes to sleep and when he wakes up it is night and he is in a strange magical island where the animals can talk and they behave socially. Through a turn of events, he befriends Carol and the storyteller that he is, tells tall tales of him being a king and defeating the Vikings, so as to avoid being eaten by the animals. The animals need a king and believe he has magical powers and that he could bring happiness to their lives. He has good times and bad times with them, but through Carol and K.W's lives, he realizes that he needs his mom now more than ever and comes back home to his worried mom.

    This a wonderful and magical film about friendship and relationships. The director, Spike Jonze doesn't tell if the world Max visited is real or whether it was all in his head, because frankly the adults will know and the children will be thinking that the island and its inhabitants are real. I liked the way that the film was made. It wasn't completely filled with CGI animals, real people dressed up as animals and minimal CGI effects made this film very real to me. Max Records gave a beautiful performance as Max, even the voice actors and the animal suit actors gave good performances. It had to be expected as the voice cast consists of James Gandolfini, Catherine O' Hara, Forest Whitaker and others. Catherine Keener is a very talented actress, but is given a limited role here, which she does justice to. The music scored by Carter Burwell is amazing and gels so beautifully with the story, that you can't but nod your head along the tunes. I became a fan of Carter Burwell from Twilight and he doesn't disappoint with this one. The humming tune of the little kid is still playing in my head :) There is a scene where Carol is taking Max to his favourite place and on the desert Max sees a gigantic dog and Carol advises Max to just ignore it, and if he fed it, it will just follow around; that was hilarious. This film brought back memories of my childhood, when I ran away from home to go to Aladdin's land to get a wish from the genie, and getting scared that I didn't know my way back home when I was hungry and didn't know where I was going with no money. It was a nightmare back then, but now its turned into a sweet memory which I had almost forgotten.

    Moving on, this has all the makings of a classic. Try seeing this at least once and you will definitely fall in love with Max and the creatures. But, be forewarned, this isn't a Disney film, there are plenty of dark, terrifying moments and little children will definitely be scared by it and some older ones will probably find it boring as this isn't filled with laugh out loud moments or eye-popping CGI effects. As for 20 yr old me, this was a good entertaining film which had a lot of heart.

  • caitlin_langton12 October 2018
    Love it
    I am ten and i loved this film , although it can be a bit depressing at times.
  • I was really looking forward to see this film, and from the trailers it seemed like such a fun, light hearted childhood adventure - just like I remembered from the book I read over and over again when I was a kid. I also have Being John Malckovich listed as one of my favorite films ever, and seeing how Where the Wild Things Are comes from the same director - you can imagine just how pumped I was.

    However, the movie itself was rather depressing and uninspiring. This could have easily been a short film, and instead it felt like it just dragged on and on. The kid who played Max was cute, but he couldn't get any real emotions out of me. He just seemed so sad all the time, and that just doesn't seem right for a would-be entertaining fantasy film. Also, once he arrived at the island, it just seemed like the movie started to drag. Many Wild Things were underused and had little to none characterizations. The ones that were prominent on screen weren't as inspiring or uplifting as I wanted them to be. Instead of being Wild Things, they were just angry and gloomy.

    So yeah, I know this was all meant as a metaphor to what was going on in Max's life in the real world. However, it didn't have the justification of being so long and cumbersome, and being outright depressing. Movies for kids are supposed to make you feel good about yourself at the end, not make you want to stick a bullet in your head...
  • wukdar6 March 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    I didn't read the book, but I thought the movie was going to be something like the "Labyrinth" or "The Never Ending Story." What a letdown, absolutely nothing happened! The main character was highly annoying and remained that way throughout the entire movie. Was the boy supposed to be Autistic or have some other condition? That is the only way to explain zero character development. Also, all of the boy's interactions with the monsters were completely meaningless. He didn't help them or make them better off. Completely pointless.

    The monsters looked like actors in costumes. With movies like "Avatar" and "A Christmas Carol" coming out the same year with superb visual effects, you can't give the audience Sesame Street characters. FAIL.
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