October 23, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Filed under: Entertainment — Jonathan @ 2:03 pm

where_the_wild_things_are_poster2

For those who don’t know about this, I’ll use a blurb by James Rocchi as a quick summary:

“Based on Maurice Sendak’s 10-sentence 1963 children’s book, director Spike Jonze’s movie manages to build a slim, slight thing of grace into a feature-length film by burrowing into the book, not by blowing it up until it breaks. With a script by Jonze and author Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”), “Where the Wild Things Are” does not add to or expand on the plot of Sendak’s book but instead creates a series of moments — conversations, adventures, silences — that fit within the story Sendak created.”

I have been looking forward to this movie for some time now. It was a pretty exciting experience and definitely had its ups and downs. There aren’t many films in a year that I get this excited, and this opinionated about. I’m going to try and highlight my favorite and least favorite moments in this film by splitting it into three categories that I felt were important:

Story:
It was good, but it lacked. Two words can sum it up: manic depression. I felt like I was going to see a Pfizer logo pop up throughout the movie; it easily could have been sponsored by Ritalin, Lamictal, or Zoloft. I understand (or perhaps interpret) the point of this story as most do. Simply enough: kids will be kids. The conflicted feelings of growing up. How happy, how sad, how crazy, how rambunctious and of course, how wild we are. But I think a lot of it was taken to the extreme. Within the first 5 minutes I couldn’t help but think that poor Max had severe psychological problems and that I was watching a PSA for tourette syndrome. Even the role of Carol was taken to a bit of an extreme. Traditionally, the Wild Things are large, intimidating and incomprehensible, like adults, but they’re moody and mercurial, like children. They show a child trapped in a grown-up body. There were many times in the film when Carol felt like less of an emotionally confused child and more like an alcoholic father on a violent bender. There were too many situations that just felt uncomfortable. It was a feeling the seemed tough to shake throughout the movie, even when things were beautiful.

The best scene in the movie? Without spoiling anything: when Max left the island. It brought some tears to my eyes and highlighted one of the rare moments in the movie that I actually felt any emotion.

The majority of the film lacked substance, but I think that’s okay. It gave you a chance to take everything in, to enjoy the moments as they passed, and to think about what was going on. With all of the action packed thrillers these days, simple contemplation and absorption of the movie is something that the industry never lets you do. It was nice to have that.

On a similar note, the message that should have been conveyed was weak. The idea that children and adults alike need to know they have feelings in them: empathy, sympathy, love and forgiveness, is drowned out by anger, being angry, breaking things and yelling. There was definitely something lost in translation.

But, with all that said, I don’t think the story was really the focus of this movie..

Visuals:
One word: Perfection. Everything and anything that appeared on the screen just looked amazing. Cinematography, costumes, lighting, scenery, editing.. everything. It all exists in a world of wood and wind and wave, of sunlight and stone. The characters of Sendak’s drawings were given life in the most beautiful way. This is really no surprise; In fact, this was why I was so excited for Where The While Things Are. Lets put Spike Jonze aside for a second; Just to see Jim Henson Productions in full swing made the movie for me. I am a long time fan of the Jim Henson Creature Shop and the fact that they were used over CGI was one of the best decisions, ever.

I think my only criticism, which isn’t really a visual flaw, were the actors voices. From the first words muttered by Carol, in the distance, it just didn’t feel right. James Gandolfini sounded more like Jon Benjamin, and that combined with the creatures shape and size made me feel like I was watching a live action, not so funny Coach McGuirk. Catherine O’Hara as Judith didn’t really do it for me either. Forest Whitaker as Ira? Nailed it! There should have been more of that.

Soundtrack:
Question: What is one way you can make Karen O even more annoying then she already is? Answer: Have a chorus of kids join her so it sounds like Kidz Bop: Crappy Indie Rock Edition. I guess for the most part, the music was pretty much okay; especially when Karen O kept her mouth shut. It helped convey the feeling most of the time while distracting the rest. Considering it was Karen O and her band of talent less indie rock idiots, I thought it was going to be much, much worse. I actually came out of it feeling pretty satisfied with what I heard. I even downloaded the soundtrack to give it all another chance.

Said and done: I am a fan. I’d give it 7.5 out of 10.

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