Movie Review: A Classic Children's Book Comes to Life

Where the Wild Things Are

Based on the classic 1963 children's book by Maurice Sendak, the film version of Where the Wild Things Are had to expand upon the story -- which in its original format is only ten sentences long. Director/co-writer Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) does a good job bringing an enhanced story to life -- it's visually a treat to behold.

Max (Max Records from The Brothers Bloom), a rambunctious and sensitive boy from a broken home, feels misunderstood and runs away from his mother (Catherine Keener). With a vivid imagination, he sets sail and lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions. The Wild Things desperately long for a leader to guide them, just as Max longs for a kingdom to rule. When Max is crowned king, he promises to create a place where everyone will be happy. But Max soon finds that ruling his kingdom is not so easy and that relationships prove to be more complicated than he originally thought.

The Wild Things are truly the stars of the film. The costumes and CGI work are amazing -- and the voice cast is near perfection. Past HBO stars James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) are joined by Catherine O'Hara, Forrest Whitaker and Paul Dano. All are excellent, but Gandolfini (The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) is especially revealing as the complex Carol.

Co-written by David Eggers, the film is not perfect. The writing falls a bit short at times -- especially when Max abruptly departs from the island and returns home. And I'm still scratching my head at earlier scenes in the non-fantasy portion -- where it's winter one moment followed shortly by Max running away -- with no snow on the ground, but summer trees in full bloom lining the street. Why would Jonez pay so much attention to detail elsewhere, but make such a bewildering mistake in continuity there? Not the masterpiece I had hoped for, but still an enjoyable film. A final note: think twice about bringing the smaller kids -- it's a bit too dark and angry for them. [Rated PG; opens today]

Grade: B


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