out of Five
Running time: 101
Brilliantly directed, superbly written and beautifully shot, this is an imaginative, thought-provoking and achingly sad portrait of childhood with terrific special effects and delightful performances.
What's it all about?
Directed by Spike Jonze and based on the bestselling children's book by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are stars Max Records as Max, an imaginative, hyper-active nine-year-old who's dealing with his parents' divorce, his mother's new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) and the fact that his older sister (Pepita Emmerichs) has started hanging out with other young teenagers and no longer has any time for him. After a fight with his mother (Catherine Keener), Max runs away from home, finds a boat and sails it to a faraway island where he encounters a group of huge, furry monsters known as the Wild Things (voiced by James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker and Michael Berry Jr.).
After initially threatening to eat him up, the Wild Things make him their king and Max commands them to “let the wild rumpus start,” leading them in a series of boisterous games and helping them to build a huge fort. However, he soon discovers that relationships are just as difficult and confusing where the Wild Things are as they are back home.
The creatures are brilliantly designed, perfectly copying the characters in the book and assigning them distinct individual personalities, through an inventive mix of terrific voice work (Gandolfini, in particular, is fantastic), wonderful costumes (from the Jim Henson company) and seamless CGI for their facial expressions. Similarly, Records is perfectly cast as Max, while there's strong support from the always excellent Catherine Keener.
The script is brilliant, lacing the dialogue with dark, melancholy humour and subtly ensuring that almost every line, visual or action on the island echoes something from Max's real life, so that we gradually understand that his adventures on the island represent him processing and coming to terms with his emotionally turbulent situation back home. Needless to say, this is even more rewarding on a second viewing.
Though it's fair to say that it won't work for everyone (it's much more of a Spike Jonze film than a children's film, for example), Where The Wild Things Are is a brilliantly directed, beautifully designed and superbly written drama that packs a powerfully emotional punch. Unmissable and one of the best films of the year.
Where The Wild Things Are (PG)