You’ve probably heard a lot about Spike Jonze’s (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) live-action adaptation of the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. You probably heard that back in 2008, Warner Bros planned to re-shoot the entire film because Jonze’s vision was deemed “too terrifying”. You also probably saw the trailer earlier this year with wonder. You also probably knew that the author, Maurice Sendak, was extremely proud of the adaptation and pretty much considered it to be a completely unique experience. Well, the film has hit theaters and everyone is wondering: Does it live up to all the hype? Well, yes.
Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of Max (Max Records), adventurous and curious at best, bratty and out of control at worst. While fighting with his mother, he runs away and imagines himself in a new world inhabited by the Wild Things. They crown him the king of their world and as the commercials say, the wild rumpus begins.
Before I begin raving, let me state with honesty that it isn’t for everyone, especially young children. Wild Things is in the same field as a film like Up in which it doesn’t talk down to younger audiences regarding fairly serious subjects. With this in mind, the tone of the film is very dark at times and kids may be wondering why the Wild Things are so emotional. Additionally, there isn’t exactly a concrete plot, so those expecting an exciting event film may be disappointed.
However, these flaws are subjective. Many of the things people don’t like about the film might be some things other people like. Negative aspects aside, there are many obvious statements about Wild Things. A. It’s absolutely gorgeous, from the Wild Things themselves, to the outstanding cinematography and set pieces. It simply will win you over with its visuals and, unsurprisingly, its to die for in IMAX. B. The acting is impeccable. Max Records is one of the only real actors through a major portion of the film and he keeps the whole narrative going smoothly. Additionally, all of the voice actors give an incredible amount of character to each Wild Thing making them all stand out whether they’re friendly, hostile or funny. C. The score (done by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is eccentric, fun and sometimes is the backbone for the entire film). It’s hands down the best original music for a movie since Slumdog Millionaire.
This could’ve easily been a mediocre to bad children’s film ridden with narrative cliches, dumbed down writing and immature humor. Instead, Warner Bros and Spike Jonze made the daring move to make a more mature film that frankly is more nostalgic for adults than entertaining for kids. This however, is not a bad thing in any sense. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why this is one of the year’s best. While some may think the tone is too dark or sad or the narrative is too uneventful, Where the Wild Things Are is a beautiful, uncompromising and charming work.