Thursday, 3 December 2009


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

I have never read Maurice Sendak's classic children's book which is the source material for Spike Jonze's new film, his first in seven years. But I was excited to see it just the same, mostly because of the wonderful first trailer (and I'm not a fan of trailers) released some six months ago, which was perfect in that it piqued interest without revealing too much.

But expectations can be a detriment to enjoying a film, especially if they are too high. I've had a recent run of vieiwng films I had been eagerly anticipating only to not have my expectations met. Thankfully, Where The Wild Things Are didn't disappoint: I didn't love it as much as I had hoped but I liked it, a lot.

When 9-year-old Max (Max Records), lonely for attention from his teen sister and single working mum (Catherine Keener), decides to act out before dinner to which mum's new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) has been invited, mum snaps. So Max runs off, into the woods where he finds a boat and sails across stormy seas to an island where he finds the wild things of the title.

We discover the wild things, or one in particular, in the midst of smashing up their homes. Carol (beautifully voiced by James Gandolfini) is upset with the departure of K.W. (Lauren Ambrose) and expresses his emotions the best he can, by acting out. Perhaps recognising a kindred spirit in Carol, Max announces himself to the creatures - Ira (Forest Whitaker), Judith (Catherine O'Hara), Alex (Paul Dano) and Douglas (Chris Cooper)- and manages to negate their desire to eat him by regaling them with tales of his adventures, which include conquering vikings. Carol is impressed and declares Max king.

It is here where both the fun and the trouble starts. All forms of childish and adult insecurities and fears come to bear on Max and the wild things' relationships: favouritism, rivalries, jealousy, anger and a lot of neuroses.

I'm not sure what fans of Sendak's book will make of this. Obviously Jonze and writer David Eggars have taken liberties in expanding a story that originally consisted of something like 12 sentences. Others, like some US film critics, will think it too dark for children but I disagree. Fairy tales have always dabbled in the dark side and even Pixar's latest, UP, opened with the harsh realities of life: we grow old and the ones we love die.

Where The Wild Things Are isn't that harsh. It suggests that we all need to go wild sometimes but there are consequences to our actions, whether we're 9 years old or 39. And I for one can't see what's wrong with that message.

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