Where the Wild Things Are
4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Spike Jonze
scr Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers
prd John B Carls, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Vincent Landay, Maurice Sendak
with Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Pepita Emmerichs
voices James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Michael Berry Jr
release US 16.Oct.09, UK 11.Dec.09
09/US 1h41
Where the Wild Things Are
I'm king of the world: Records with Carol

keener gandolfini ambrose
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Where the Wild Things Are Jonze's inventive approach to Maurice Sendak's classic children's book continually confounds our expectations with an approach that's so offhanded and fresh that it might feel awkward or strange. But it's a real grower.

Max (Records) is a mischievous, imaginative pre-teen with a dismissive big sister (Emmerichs) and an understanding mum (Keener). But a series of events get him thinking about the fragility of life, so he takes a flight of fantasy to a distant island populated by furry creatures who at first threaten to eat him but then adopt him as their king. Playful games ensue, as he leads them in the construction of a giant fortress. But even here, relationships become tricky to navigate.

Jonze creates a relaxed, natural atmosphere as seen through Max's childish perspective. This continues seamlessly from the real world across a vast sea to the island of the wild things, which of course represent his internal turmoil. He immediately befriends the lively, sensitive Carol (voiced by Gandolfini), whose strained relationship with the more adventurous KW (Ambrose) begins to define Max's experience. There's also the busy bird-like Douglas (Cooper), the anxious goat-like Alexander (Dano), the acerbic Judith (O'Hara) and her patient sidekick Ira (Whitaker).

These creatures are a terrific combination of vibrant voice work, superb design (by the Jim Henson company), raw physical performance and remarkably subtle effects. Tiny details make them thoroughly real--small attitudes, flickers of emotion, physical traits like Carol's perpetually runny nose. And the film's full of boyish energy, as Max builds forts, initiates dirt-clod fights and wrestles raucously with his pals. But what makes this grab hold is the way it so sharply captures how tempers flare, feelings are hurt and relationships are strained.

Yes, Max is learning that he's not the only person on earth; he needs to think about other people and face the scary prospect of growing up. Jonze puts this together in such an unexpected way that it really catches our imagination. His filmmaking might be a bit startling at first, but this film deserves to become a perennial classic that challenges us all to find the fears inside of us and overcome them.

cert pg themes, suspense, some violence 27.Nov.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall