Where The Wild Things Are (Review)

where-the-wild-things-areI respect Spike Jonze as much as any “name” filmmaker going at the moment, even the perennial Oscar contenders including Scorsese, Ron Howard and Eastwood. He doesn’t get the budgets, the acclaim or the audience of the other guys, but day-yum does he make interesting films.

The list of films on his CV is hardly expansive, but already includes Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and now Where the Wild Things are… at the very least all I can say is that Jonez’ work is incredibly interesting and compelling.

WTWTA is based upon the book we all read as kids but likely have no recollection of. It is about a kid named Max and his antics with giant mythical beasts. It was more a book about imagination and vibrant illustrations than it was the outline of a 90 minute feature film, yet here we are.

In the film, Max is still a kid. His Mum, Catherine Keener is often pre-occupied by work, and also doing a little dating. Therefore Max at times feels unloved and ignored, so once he hears a “positivity” speech given by his schoolteacher, along the lines of “we are all insignificant, we will all die, the World will die”, and so on.

Max is a kid as mentioned before, and has a kid’s vivid imagination, wears outfits, and has adventures through the house and in the backyard. While attempting to gain Mum’s attention, Max goes a little over the line and they clash, leading to Max making a bolt for the door and fangingĀ  down the street as his Mum cries in vain for him to return. In real life a kid like Max, in the US at least going by all reports would be on Ritinol or a similar downer, if only for Mum’s sanity.

Max ends up through the woods at the shore of what may be a lake, he comes across a dinghy, (no explanation is given as to whether Max knew it was there or not), and immediately sets off in a straightline offshore.

Max is sailing (dinghy-ing?) for a looo-oong time, and there comes a storm that immediately shows us Max is on no lake, but a vast expanse of surging ocean. The next thing we know Max has washed ashore, where after a while he overhears some voices ahead of him, voices that sound no different to those at most barbecues or New York subways. As he nears the group the images come into focus and it is clear that these voices do not belong to campers or a Boy Scout group, even though they are in the middle of the woods in pitch black darkness lurking around a fire, but a bunch of 7 foot (plus) tall furry, and often horned and tailed behemoths, each weighing more than 10 Max’s.

Rather than do another bolt, the confidence provided by the ignorance of youth has Max actually go up to confront and meet the Wild Things, with false bravado to match he comes up with a long and rambling story that paints him as some sort of superhero adventurer, all while wearing a sheepsuit. So convincing is the story that the Wild Things anoint Max as their new pint sized King. After threatening him with being treated like an entree that is.

It turns out that the wild iagination of a 10 year old sounds pretty impressive to a bunch of vaguely depressed giant humanesque creatures, no matter how far-fetched they are.

The next morning brings the Wild Things into the light, so we can see exaclty how cool their designs and effects are, they are like awesome Banana Splits, only without the perpetual toothy smiles and zany outfits. They are all similar yet distinctly original, and they most definately have their own personalities, hopes, aspirations, deficiencies and idiosynchracies. As mentioned before they each speak like normal everyday people, which I guess if you believe enough to allow the thought of 7 foot hairy horned talking beasts, it isn’t that far to go to think that they might sound like us too.

During the initial stages of Max’s “reign”, things go rosy for all, and in one especially charming scene the Wild Things pile onto Max and each other, which even though it could end in a crushed kid, actually ends up apparently cosy and comforting, like a big sexless orgy pile on with a heap of big fat hairy guys.

Of course being a movie the good times don’t go on forever, and dissent builds in the ranks as certain Wild Things feel Max is playing favourites. Max pacifies the throng with the answer to many a pre-teen argument… A boundie fight. So we basically have a bunch of super strong giant beasts hurling hefty chunks of dirt and rock at each other, probably not a good recipe for a ten year old boy.

The movie doesn’t really build as much as elapse, with events moving forward without much in the way of climax or massive action sequences. I feel that Jonze is trying to make a film that shows what it is like to be a kid, only many of the kids have pituitary issues and an excess of body hair. This is where WTWTA excels, it is hard to explain but this film has an abundance of charm. The film doesn’t bother trying to explain itself (something that is a personal peeve of mine, it is a film after all), and also doens’t try to second guess itself by being too clever.

Where the Wild Things are is simply a story well told. Now I hate it when people tell me “Oh you didn’t like X? Well you just don’t get it”, but I think WTWTA will polarise audiences. I think if you watch it and like it, then there is a fair chance you would also enjoy watching it again and again, but if you don’t like it the first time it is highly unlikely that subsequent viewings will turn you around.

How this film ends isn’t important, neither is the action and events within, this is more a film about enjoying the journey. If you shut your brain off to rational thought (giant monsters talking like tax drivers?) and just watch the thing perhaps you might just find this very enjoyable.

Actually, my best advice is to think like you’re a 10 year old kid again. Then you’ll enjoy it far more.

Even though I really liked this film I personally have it as the least successful of Spike’s efforts, even though there are only three thus far. I think that like an athlete once ge gets 2 or 3 more films under his belt he will really hit his straps, and then he may no longer be the eccentric music video maestro who makes the occasional film, but a “go-to guy” whose audience eagerly awaits the arrival of his next project.

I’ll happily stand in that queue.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. Ignore the basic plot and simple storyline, oft times genuine charm is severely underrated in films. There is abundance of that here.

P.S. My initial draft criminally overlooked mentioning the soundtrack music. I had never heard anything on the soundtrack prior to watching this and haven’t heard anything from it since, yet somehow I think that without each other both soundtrack and the film would be the lesser for it.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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