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Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SPIKE Jonze’s eagerly anticipated adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s much-loved bedtime story is a curious film in that it appears to have divided audiences.

Fans of the book appear to love it as much as they did the text, while newcomers aren’t quite sure what the fuss is all about.

As a newcomer myself, it’s an engaging piece of work that’s visually distinctive, emotionally involving yet somehow not as lasting as I’d anticipated it would be.

The film follows the fortunes of a young boy named Max (Max Records) who, following an angry meltdown at home, escapes to a remote island populated by a tribe of furry creatures.

In a bid to avoid being eaten, Max declares himself their king and vows to keep their sadness away, striking up a particularly close bond with the overly sensitive Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini).

But as the enormity of Max’s task becomes clear, his ability to keep his promise feels less and less likely.

Jonze’s film undoubtedly plays best to fans of the novel, who will know and understand the various directions it takes.

Newcomers, meanwhile, will have to pay close, careful attention to the opening 20 minutes or so as much of what happens in Max’s new/imagined world reflects what’s said and seen beforehand.

Those that do, however, will be rewarded with a thoughtful, sometimes fun but often poignant adventure that’s also rooted in darkness.

Young Max Records proves an endearing central character for the most part, even though his home scenes veer towards the precocious at times, while the vocal support from Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker and Chris Cooper (among many others) ensures that the chimera creatures will resonate no matter how initially odd their appearance.

Jonze’s visual flair and indie sensibility also ensures that the film consistently looks and feels good, while his hip soundtrack augments the overall feel of proceedings.

But anyone seeking a conventional family movie that’s fully explained, high on action/adventure and generally light and breezy had best think again. Where The Wild Things Are doesn’t adhere to convention and may even disturb younger viewers in places by virtue of its emotional realism.

Hence, while certainly refreshing and distinctive in its own right, the film is easier to admire than to love outright. That said, Where The Wild Things Are is to be recommended for the more adventurous viewer of every age, so long as you don’t (as a newcomer) go in with hopes too raised.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 10, 2010