Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini and more…
Max is a young boy with an attitude problem, plagued by an older sister and mother (Catherine Keener) who don’t seem to have enough time for him. His fits of rage serve as a way to get their attention but end up landing him in trouble. Fed up, he runs off into the night and sails away to a seemingly deserted island.
But as Max soon finds out, this land isn’t so deserted. He finds a group of strange creatures destroying little grass huts. He’s good at that kind of thing so he lends a hand. When the creatures start to question him, he says he’s a king, who conquered Vikings, with magic and that he can help him. The creatures have apparently never seen a human before and so believe him and make him their king.
They build a friendship and a fort and things go well for a while. The group comes to love and trust Max and he feels a particular kinship for the creature Carol (James Gandolfini), whom the viewer can see a lot of Max in. They have fun, Max teaches them…
And that’s where the trouble begins. He tells Carol the sun will die one day and decides to fight a mock war, splitting the group in two. When the losers lose, well you can guess how that goes. They (especially KW–played by Lauren Ambrose) throw a fit and things go downhill.
It was a sweet story and the creatures are interesting, but … a lot of the story as filled out here, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For instance ….
One: We don’t know where this world is, is it in his head? If so, where did Max land for the night?
Two: It seems as if there are only ten or less creatures on this entire island. So it seems like the huts they’re destroying in the beginning might be their own homes. If so, why destroy them? Why do the others not step in and stop it? (ah, see this is part of the lesson of this whole little trip, isn’t it?)
Three: The creatures say they ate their last king. If that’s the case, why do they put up with KW’s nonsense? Why not just eat her and be done with it?
Fourth: These are violent creatures to begin with but they blame all their troubles on Max. I don’t see that as being the case, really. So poor Max is a bit of a scapegoat. He’s lucky they didn’t eat him.
On the whole it was an interesting movie, and I love the creatures—but what do you expect from Jim Henson’s crew? It’s very nice to see them use actual puppets for the movie rather than to just fall back on CGI.
Poor Spike Jonze, he had to take a basically less than 500 word story and turn it into a plausible two hour movie and there just isn’t enough there to pull it off. Instead, Jonze fell back on what he did best and proves he’s still a video jock by making more than half the movie into a music video. Every other scene, it seems, is taken up with music-over a shaky scene. And while I suppose it was meant to add action, it really just served to make the movie drag. He could’ve done better to delve more into Max’s realizations and—oh, I know, resolving the story. It was nice to see the character Max learn something and grow, but as with all stories that end like this, I felt a little let down. The ending left much to be desired in that Max says nothing to his mother when he returns. No, “sorry mom”, no explanation of the previous hours. But Sendak signed off on the changes so for that, I guess it’s okay. For what it is, if you like this kind of fantasy story, I’d definitely recommend Where the Wild Things Are.
It’s available in streaming video via Amazon.com, to rent and own at Netflix and Amazon.com
For more on Where the Wild Things Are see:
the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
For more on Maurice Sendak see his page at Harper Collins here and here.
The official movie site.
Where the Wild Things Are at IMDb