Where The Wild Things Are
A splendid adventure, a passionate escape from the realities of life that endears itself to audiences of all ages.


9 May 2010

See comments (
Plot summary

An adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world: a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler.

Where There Wild Things Are is an adaptation of the classic children’s picture book of the same name with Spike Jonze collaborating with the original author, Maurice Sendak, to bring the tale to the screen. The film tells the story of Max, an energetic but sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and confused about some of the changes that have taken place in his life. He escapes to an island where he meets strange creatures that make him their king. He promises to bring them happiness, but finds their relationships as complicated to navigate as the real-world characters in his life.

Where The Wild Things Are is a film full of contradiction; it is surreal and energetic but cerebral and thoughtful, it is about childhood but not a children’s film, it is utterly engrossing but also surprisingly light on plot development. And the characters are just as full of contradiction themselves; James Gandolfini’s Carol is intelligent in many ways; he demonstrates genuine critical thought in assessing the state of the world and his place in it, but emotionally is little more than a child and is the first to accept Max, a young boy, as his king. Indeed Max himself found this world precisely because of his conflicted emotions and his inability to confront them constructively.

Although it is criticized for the lack of narrative, Jonze has actually done a remarkable job of constructing such a coherent film out of a source material just nine sentences long. The lack of plot development in several parts is also not a flaw; the film is a hymn to childhood and remains consistently eloquent and passionate. Where The Wild Things Are also captures the conflict, drama and complexities of relationships and sets them amongst one of the most delightful visual backdrops ever committed to celluloid. The monsters are gorgeous to behold, as is their island – rich in colour, depth and variety. The monsters were created by actors wearing elaborate suits with their faces added later on with computer animation; a technique that proves immensely effective.  They provide much of the comedy in the film, which works largely because of their expressive faces. Alexander, the constant misfit and his hilarious insecurities show this working at its best.

Where The Wild Things Are is an incredibly warm film, made more so by these fantastically surreal characters. Even the most hardened cynic will secretly wish they could offer one a hug, especially because seeing them miserable is so genuinely distressing. They are brought to life by some fantastic voice acting; most notably by James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker and Chris Cooper. Max Records (yes, that is his real name) who plays Max proves that not all child performers have to be wooden or overly sweet; he captures the energy, imagination and conflict in his character with remarkable maturity.

Karen O, best known for fronting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, wrote the music by collaborating widely and using a children’s choir. The result is a lively soundtrack that helps maintain the often-frenetic pace of the film. Her distinct style also adds a certain optimistic tone, which is important to the atmosphere that Jonze attempts to create on the island.

Where The Wild Things Are is not a children’s film as evidenced by much of the humour, the subtleties of which are unlikely to be fully grasped by those much under 15. However, it is still an extremely pleasing film to watch at any age because of the visual wonders and the sheer heart that permeates every frame. Children will connect with the vivid sights and sounds and grown ups can not fail to feel nostalgia for the time when they saw the world through children’s eyes.

Where The Wild Things Are is a splendid adventure, a passionate escape from the realities of life that endears itself to audiences of all ages.