SYNOPSIS: Nine-year-old Max runs away from home and sails across the sea to become king of the land "Where the Wild Things Are." King Max rules a wondrous realm of gigantic fuzzy monsters – but being king may not be as carefree as it looks! Filmmaker Spike Jonze directs a magical, visually astonishing film version of Maurice Sendak’s celebrated children’s classic, starring an amazing cast of screen veterans and featuring young Max Records in a fierce and sensitive performance as Max. Explore the joyous, complicated and wildly imaginative wild rumpus of the time and place we call childhood.
Yes, this is the movie which Singapore never got to see in the theatres because, err, the distributor felt that it would not create mass appeal amongst local audiences. Which simply means, the movie would not make money if it was given a big screen release like, err, a commercially viable movie which features loud and in your face car chases and explosions.
Sure. If they say so.
Over at our humble movie website, we are just glad that this gleefully wicked adaptation of the well loved children’s book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak has found its way to DVD (we don’t advocate online downloads although we are pretty sure many of you reading this has a copy somewhere in your computer). Before this becomes an opinion piece about anything but the review of this fantastic film, let’s move on to why it warrants your attention.
Based on the 1963 children’s book of the same name, the story has its protagonist Max running away from home after several upsetting episodes in his adolescent life. Wearing his wolf costume, he travels to a world inhabited by a group of large beasts simply known as “wild things”. It is there the boy (who threw a boyish tantrum earlier at home) will be crowned king and will be expected to solve all the problems plaguing the wild things. And thanks to the genius filmmaker Spike Jonze, we are brought on a wondrous visual journey where the power of imagination blends seamlessly with very real human (and for that matter, adult) themes. Considering Jonze’s filmography which includes the intelligently wacky Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002), you should expect nothing less than an uncompromisingly creative visualization of the award winning bestseller.
First, the creatures created by The Jim Henson Company would awe you. Expect to pay attention to the details of these specially made costumes donned by actors. Every element from the visually arresting horns and claws to the standout strands of hair is an extraordinary magnificence to gawk at. Jonze has not bowed down to cutesy creatures or worse still, entirely animated beasts to appeal to conventional expectations, and the result is a joy for the eyes.
While the source may be a children’s book (even so, academics have commented on Sendak’s portrayal of psychological anger and colonialism), this film adaptation is anything but straightforwardly wholesome. Themes of antagonism, resentment, jealousy and distrust are inspirationally depicted in the screenplay co penned by Jonze and Dave Eggers (Away We Go).
And yes, everyone loves an adorably cute child actor. Here we have Max Records (The Brothers Bloom) taking on the role of the annoyed little boy who experiences an adventure of self discovery, and you’d be glad to hear that he tackles this character well without coming across as contrived. The ever reliable Catherine Keener (Into the Wild) plays his mum, and manages to evoke empathy with her limited screen time. A star studded cast which includes James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper and Catherine O’ Hara round up the movie with their earnest voice acting for the wild things.
Do not think that this is one of those disposable and off putting movies which banks on a dreary kid’s tale. Neither is it a wannabe art film made with self indulgence. This is one movie that can spurn endless discussions about relevant human emotions, and we are recommending it to anyone with a heart.
The Code 3 DVD contains a Series of “Where the Wild Things Are” Shorts by Lance Bangs. The four clips ranging from 50 seconds to five minutes are behind the scenes footages documented by Bangs. While amusing while they lasted, these are rather measly bonus features for such a fantastic movie.
The movie’s visual transfer is pristine. You can watch it in either English or Thai audio tracks.
DVD RATING :
Review by John Li