Friday, 11 December 2009

Where The Wild Things Are - Review

"It's going to be a place where only the things you want to happen, would happen."

After numerous years, a couple of mixed test screenings, going way over budget and a near revolt from Warner Bros, Spike Jonze's adaptation of the 1963 children's book Where The Wild Things Are finally hits the screens. The results were more than satisfying.

The story itself charts the tale of hyperactive kid, Max as he flees from his home in a fit of rage and anger after a fallout with his mother - played by frequent Jonze collaborator, Catherine Keener. Escaping on his ship, and sailing into the open sea, he eventually finds solace on a remote island populated by the most amazing looking creatures known as The Wild Things (I think...). With the original story consisting of minimal dialogue, Jonze enlisted the talents of author Dave Eggers to pen a much more expanded screenplay.

Having waited for this film since I originally first read about it many years ago, I could not contain my excitement, I was literally jumping up and down and never before been as bedazzled by a trailer than this. One of the most wonderful childhood books of all time envisioned by one of the most talented directors of the past decade is surely something worth seeing, arguably similar in approach to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox back in October.

However, where Jonze succeeded with Wild Things as oppose to Wes Anderson with Mr Fox was that he knew who the target audience was. Though fans of Jonze's previous films will adore the idiosyncratic style and dialogue evoked throughout the film, there is plenty for the children to marvel and love about it as well, which in my opinion is, frankly, the point.

One of the most stunning aspects of the film itself was the beautifully realised world of the Wild Things, with a vast array of elemental regions, from dark monolithic forests to a barren desert, snow-filled lands and elegant spring gardens. You could tell, in a purely visual capacity, that Jonze knew exactly how he wanted this film to look and feel.

Watching the characters being brought to life on screen was the most visually delightful spectacles you will see in a film all year, combining a mixture of animatronics from the Jim Henson Company with computer animation for their faces and expressions. The producers seemingly went to great effort to enlist a quality band of voice actors consisting of James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano, Chris Copper (my pick of the bunch), Michael Berry Jr and Lauren Ambrose.

Worthy mention must go out to the very folky and earthy score performed predominately by Karen O, singer for New York act Yeah Yeah Yeahs with contributions from her band mates and other composers such as Cater Burwell and Daniel Johnston.

It does pain me to say that it wasn't the film of the year I was unprofessionally expecting or wanting. As the case with Spike Jonze's other films it may come across a bit too arty or 'out there' for general film audiences to really appreciate. The story had an air of over-anticipation about it, as if you were sitting there waiting for something truly magical to happen or appear out of thin air but it unfortunately never really came to be. Besides quite a dark verging on scary third act (for the kids I mean) the plot wore slightly thin in comparison to the spectacular backdrops and landscapes of the island and the loveable diverse characters on show.

Final Thoughts
A slow burner, and casual audiences may not immediately understand the point of it. However fans of the original book by Maurice Sendak or director Spike Jonze will rejoice with glee. Where The Wild Things Are is a wonderful tale that evokes memories of those lost childhood days where the imagination truly ran er...Wild. Spike Jonze has delivered a film that I firmly believe could stand the test of the time with generations of children to come, a visual assault on all the senses, a genuine treat for all the family on this festive period. Its the film equivalent of a fine wine, trust me it's going to get better with every viewing. Mainstream cinema as an art-form rarely looks this good.

7.5/10 (could go up a point by next viewing)

See This If You Liked...
Harry Potter, Coraline, Roald Dahl adaptations, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth.

Where The Wild Things Are is available in all cinemas from today.

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