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 Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are   Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:17 pm

Maurice Sendak wrote Where The Wild Things Are in 1963, which he also illustrated. Originally, the Wild Things were nearly horses, but Sendak couldn't draw horses very well, so they became the Wild Things. Since the publication of his book, which only lasts 48 pages and nine sentences, it has become a much loved story amongst young children and adults. Selling more than 19 million copies worldwide. Attempts have been made to make a film version of Where The Wild Things Are for years. Aside from a short made by Czech based American animator Gene Deitch in 1973, a full length film version has been trickier to get made. Many filmmakers have been attached to do a film version in the years since it's publication, including Chuck Jones, John Lassiter and Jim Henson. All of whom couldn't crack how to expand the story's short narrative or get an approach that Sendak would approve of. However, in the late 1990's, Tom Hanks bought the option to a film version, which was originally due to have been an animated film at Universal, but that fell by the wayside. However, music video director Spike Jonze, who had recently broken into films with Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation. (2002) took an interest in it. So, in 2005, he and co-writer Dave Eggers had an idea of how to do it, which seemed like a very unlikely approach to the story, but amazingly, Sendak approved. Where The Wild Things Are is an unlikely childrens film, although it's target audience is actually adults, but it's a simply wonderful, lyrical piece on the ups and downs of childhood and what it was once like to be young.

The film begins with Max (Max Records) a lonely boy with a hyperactive imagination. But there's trouble at home when his sister Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) does nothing when her friends destroy his snow igloo, although they didn't mean it, so he trashes her room. Much to the chargrin of his mother Connie (Catherine Keener). When she has a boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) over for tea, Max dresses up in a wolf costume and causes trouble, Connie tries to send Max to his room without his tea. He bites her and runs off into the night. Max discovers a boat on a pond which takes him out to sea and beyond to an island, where it's inhabitants are 7 large creatures, The Wild Things. They are Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), Ira (Forest Whittaker), Judith (Catherine O'Hara), KW (Lauren Ambrose), Alexander (Paul Dano) The Bull (Michael Berry Jr.) and Douglas (Chris Cooper) who take interest in Max. But in a playful mood, Max lies and tells them he is a king with magical powers. He declares a wild rumpus and for them to build a fortress. But, will the happiness last??

From the opening shot of Max chasing his dog around the house in his wolf costume, it's clear that this won't be your ordinary children's film. It's a Spike Jonze children's film, meaning kids will still enjoy it, but it won't be like other children's films, but adults will enjoy it more. Probabily. It's certainly done with the same independent spirit that Jonze has used in his first two films and all of his music videos. It looks unconventional, it feels unconventional and sounds unconventional. That's because it is. It's different to other kiddie targeted films out this year, indeed it's actually closer in spirit to what Wes Anderson did this year with Fantastic Mr. Fox. A much loved book turned into an indie themed film. It should be at odds with the source material, but it isn't. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, this one is different from the book, but it at least keeps the tone and spirit of the source material. Jonze's take is original and is a poignant, moving but joyous ode to childhood.

It's original in it's look as well, Jonze used his usual team to bring the film to life, including cinematographer Lance Acord and production designer K.K. Barrett. Who give the film a very off kilter yet down to earth look. Anyone could have directed this, and it probabily would have had a much more polished look to it. But, it's ragged, shaky look gives it an edge, the camerawork moves around a lot, unable to keep still. Like a child's POV in a way. The Wild Things are well created, taken from Sendak's original illustrations. The locations used here for the Island, filmed in Victoria and Queensland, Australia, are wonderful. Adding an other-worldly look to the film. The music is also wonderful, with songs by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and score by Carter Burwell is almost childlike.

The cast are wonderful as well, Jonze made a brilliant discovery with Max Records. A brilliant discovery made by Jonze and Catherine Keener (who also co-produced this film). Records is a natural, capturing the spirit of childhood. Max is a fearless child, hyperactive and having a good time, but never far away from tears when it all comes crashing down. The voices of the Wild Things are warm and friendly. The voices fit the characters as well.

I loved this film, it was a gentle and odd little film, with alot of heart and emotion. It has a gentle sense of humour, and it's moving as well, which some children may find hard to swallow. But, it's a film close in tone to Labyrinth (1986), someone coming to the end of their childhood, struggling to come to terms with what will happen to them and the world around them. It's happened to us all, it probabily still is. But Jonze's film sums up what it was once like to be young and having a good time, getting into scrapes, and always having the comfort of one of our parents if we hurt ourselves. That's what this film is about, the life and times of childhood.





It's great that Jonze has been able to make something out of an allegedly unfilmable book. It's different, but it's still a joyous experience. It's been well worth the wait, and the film's message is simple and clear. Don't stop being a child, it's the most fun you'll ever have. For a film that took so long to film and complete, it's not very long, and it lasts little over 100 minutes. But it flies by, and it's almost ambient tone punctuated by the odd wild rumpus is enjoyable and comforting. I wonder if this will start a trend of indie themed children's films, on the basis of this, they're quite enjoyable, and very different from what's gone before. In a year filled with mainstream animated films and live-action films, this is a real dark horse, but it's certainly original. It's an absolutely pleasure to spend time with the Wild Things, you won't forget it, and you'll want to go back for more as soon as you've seen it!! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are   Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:44 pm

It's out on DVD and Blu-Ray in America on March 2nd!! Details coming soon!! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are   Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:01 pm

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