"Where the Wild Things Are" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

2/27/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"Where the Wild Things Are"

Directed by Spike Jonze, written by Jonze and Dave Eggers, 100 minutes, rated PG.

By Christopher Smith

Out of all the ways “Where the Wild Thing Are” could have gone wrong, it didn’t. Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved, 1963 illustrated children’s book, which consists of a mere 338 words, takes its subject seriously, which is critical to its success.

Childhood, after all, is serious. It’s not Romper Room. It’s not all playtime with the Playstation 3. The world is a scary place--it still is, maybe even more so when you’re an adult--and so what Jonze achieves through his and Dave Eggers’ script is a movie that fleshes out Sendak’s book, but which does so in ways that are thoughtful, meaningful and real in spite of the story’s underlying elements of fantasy.

This is the movie Ron Howard should have created in his botched adaptation of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” But Howard, eager for a big box-office opening, ruined that movie because the serious undercurrent running through it didn’t lend itself to the bloated piece of excess he wanted to press upon the masses.

Jonze gets it right. He sees childhood for what it is right now--fractured families fraught with divorce, unhappy children unable to fully sort out feelings of anger and rage, growing pains tossed in with fleeting moments of happiness--and he taps into the unrest that stems from this.

He has, in a sense, deepened the work that came before it. Some are so close to the book that they’ll disagree with that notion, but by taking Sendak’s core themes and reflecting them upon what’s happening now with children in the increasingly fractured family unit, he actually has made those themes more timely and relevant.

Handheld camera in tow, Jonze follows Max (Max Records, terrific), a boy who just wants to be a boy (he’s a bit older here than in the book), but who is becoming undone by the pressures surrounding him. His mother (Catherine Keener) is divorced and dating (Mark Ruffalo). His older sister is of that age where older sisters have zero time for younger brothers. And so, in the face of his stinging loneliness--and all the other feelings assailing him--Max acts out, at one point biting his mother, which causes a reaction that leads to his running away from home.

Here, the switch from reality to fantasy is seamless. On a boat, Max sails across fantastic waters that lead him to another land. It’s a wild journey, but it’s nothing compared to what comes next--the enormous Wild Things themselves, all beautifully realized and voiced by James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Dana, Chris Cooper, Lauren Abrose and Forest Whitaker. They’re an unhappy bunch--not unlike Max’s own family--and so when he is deemed their king when he lies about possessing special powers, he realizes that he now must try to make them happy. For awhile he succeeds, but nothing lasts forever. And what is Max to do when he realizes that he’s let these enormous beasts down, and fooled them along the way?

Life lessons unfurl in “Where the Wild Things Are,” but not to the point of whacking audiences over the head with them. Jonze is more subtle than that. He always has been sort of childlike himself, and so he allows Max his difficult mission of self-discovery by observing him with unforced insights that are revealed in his multitude of mistakes.

Grade: B+

View the trailer for "Where the Wild Things Are" below.  What are your thoughts?

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  1. brodie said...

    this is a really great review of the film- one of the better ones i've read!
    any review/info of what extras are on the dvd/blu-ray, though? i have a whole extra month to wait til its release here in australia and it's killing me!