Release Date: 10/16/08
Director: Spike Jonze
Creature Effects: Jim Henson's Creature Shop
Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper
Sure, being an adult sucks, but this film reminds us that being a kid isn't much fun either. Director Spike Jonze takes Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book and turns it into a philosophically trippy voyage of self discovery. Max (delightful Max Records) is a highly sensitive, hyperactive young boy with anger issues and a vivid imagination. After an emotional blowout with his mother over his unruly behavior, Max runs away to a dark corner of his imagination where the Wild Things are. He is declared the King of the Wild Things and revels in the chaos, anarchy, and destruction that he instigates. Unfortunately, it's not all fun and games, and soon Max realizes that the Wild Things aren't much different from the people he left behind, with the same feelings, conflicts, and struggles. As Max tries to make sense of the world around him and the harmful effects of his selfishly destructive behavior, he finally understands that he must return to his own family and make amends.
What a depressing film this is! Jonze has superbly captured the horrors of childhood and created a world as only a child would perceive it. It is definitely not a feel good movie, and the emotional tension runs high throughout the entire film. The film looks absolutely magnificent and the island of the Wild Things is breathtaking in its stark and dangerous beauty. The Wild Things are fascinating to watch, and the people at the Jim Henson Company have really outdone themselves with this film. I honestly can't say how much is mechanical vs. digital, but the results are seamless and the effect is magical. I can't even imagine how much the creature performers must have suffered for their art. The only criticisms I would weigh against the film are that the wirework isn't very convincing and the nausea inducing handheld camera work is way overdone. The acting is very good and Max Records is extremely believable as an emotionally troubled young boy. Catherine Keener gives a superb and heartbreaking portrayal of a woman struggling to keep her family, as well as her sanity, together. Ultimately, the film is not entertaining. Instead, it's a journey through lost innocence that requires quiet and thoughtful reflection.