Wednesday, November 11, 2009


By D.E.Levine

Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers (screenplay) Maurice Sendak (book)
Producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Bruce Berman, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Maurice Sendak, John Carls and Vincent Landay
Cast (Voices): Max Records, Catherine Keener, Steve Mouzakis, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandofini, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Michael Berry, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Pepita Emmerichs
Music: Karen O and Carter Burwell
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Spike Jonze has done an amazing job of taking a 300-word children's book first published in 1963, and turning it into a haunting and original feature-length film .

The movie lives mainly in the mind of Max, a nine-year old who goes through feelings of isolation that drive him to where the wild things are found. Max learns that the world and the children in it can be cruel.

Absorbing that lesson through tears and hurt, Max is left with a wound that won't heal and Max erupts roaring at his Mother who roars back. Finally he sails into the world adrift and alone.

The world he finds himself in is an island that is simultaneously scary, wondrous, confusing, expansive and gorgeous. Perhaps only a 9-year old could dream such a wondrous place up. Lush woods abut endless desert sands and a roaring ocean.

The creatures are have wondrous, mostly furry, oversized costumes and CG-augmented faces. A few have horns, a few have tails that twitch and they all appear to have sharp claws and very vicious, sharp teeth. They waddle through the film and appear more cuddly than the creatures in the original book.

Max himself goes through the place where the wild things are dressed in a wolf suit with a bushy tail and a hood with ears and whiskers. He himself is a wild thing with many complex parts to his personality. And, he becomes King of the creatures.

Each creature that Max meets evokes a different part of his own personality. The first creature Max meets is Carol, who is busy crushing everything insight. Max becomes fast friends with Carol since he can relate to her need to be loved, her insecurity and her temper mixed with her sweetness.

Max interfaces with the different wild things in different ways, befriending Carol, ignoring the goat-beast who is timid, seeking to impress the big sister substitute wild thing KW and bullying the bird-man.

However, Jonze has not attempted to interpret the story through Freudian analysis. The story has been expanded but remains a story about a boy, his Mom, his sister, his room, his loneliness and his creative imagination.

The tears, frustration, temper tantrums and anger that appear in the first 20 minutes all resurface on the idyllic island. This could be indicative of how our waking hours invade our dreams.

Many things could be analyzed and reinterpreted, but with this film it's better to sit back and enjoy the fantasy that Spike Jonze weaves.