Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are is one of my favorite movies of the year thus far. It's an adaptation of Maurice Sendak's story of a misbehaving, over imaginative youth named Max. I had trouble picturing a book with only a hand full of sentences transferring well into a movie, but director Spike Jonze and writer Dave Eggers pull it off. It probably didn't hurt that they were in constant contact with Sendak himself, who ultimately gave the final product his blessing.

The movie follows Max (Max Records) an over active kid driving his single mother crazy. After a brief introduction of the characters, including his love-hate relationship with his older sister and his mother, he runs away to an imaginary island where he comes across the titular Wild Things. After a fairly tense initial confrontation, he becomes their leader. His relationship with the Wild Things, in turn, closely resembles his relationship with his own family, in a well deserved role reversal.

Perhaps the most touching, and certainly the most important, relationship is between Max and Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) the biggest and most volatile of the Wild Things. Carol gives Max the ability to see himself from the outside, as well as a look into how his behavior affects those around him. For the first time, he is able to see things from his mother's point of view.

There's been some complaints bandied around about how this movie may be too scary for children. There may indeed be some validity to that. The relationship between Max and the various Wild Things hovers between touching and dramatically intense. Each one of the creatures embodies certain flaws and emotional dysfunction. Everybody feels these things, but it may be difficult for a children to wrap their heads around them- hence these traits personify themselves in each of Max's new found friends. I expect that the ability for children to relate to Max far outweighs any scary moments. In fact, while watching this movie I thought I was looking at myself at a younger age.

Aside from being an extremely touching story, Where The Wild Things Are is beautiful to look at. The island Max travels embodies the grand scope, that could only come from a vivid imagination. Yet somehow, he makes the seemingly boundless island feel intimate. This is also a prime example of how to effectively use computer visual effects. The Wild Things themselves were all done with actors in suits. Their faces, however, were CG. Honestly, I didn't know that before going into it, and would have never suspected a thing. The raw emotion conveyed by these creatures makes it feel like no effects were created at all.

My one quibble with this movie is in one minor departure from the book. In Sendak's original, Max is sent to his room, and creates the entire Wild Things universe in his room. In the movie he runs away from home, and despite still being clearly within his imagination, "travels" to the island. By forcing Max to leave his house, the movie blurs this line and diminishes the power of his imagination. This missed opportunity is the only thing that prevented Where The Wild Things Are from being a home-run.


1 comment:

Chalom said...

It a must seen movies.