Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are – go see it!

So I might as well just get it out of the way: Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s book of the same name, is nothing short of phenomenal. If you have no plans to see it, make plans. If you’ve already seen it, see it again. Maybe we’ll see it at the same theater.

For the uninitiated, WtWTA is the story of a young, rambunctious boy in the throes of emotional development, overrun by confusion. It’s a story with which we should all be familiar, and one that very often can trail into adulthood, leaving in its wake a path of pain and destruction. Max, the roughly ten year old star of the story, is a ball of frightened energy, prone to periodic bursts of anger and inappropriately timed rage. He feels alone and abandoned by his older sister, who’s busy with her own post-pubescent life, and by his mother, who is consumed by a difficult job she can’t afford to lose and the hope of some new affection from a new boyfriend. Max’s father is present only in the heaviness of his absence, and the hole left in the little boy’s life is especially felt when he stares longingly at a globe gifted to him by his father, with a simple inscription: “Max, this world belongs to you. Love, Dad.” It’s striking in its simplicity and in the depth of its meaning, and this scene is indicative of the entire film.

Whereas most other children’s stories are turned into films of extraordinary spectacle, vivid colors and unimaginable special effects, Max’s journey to the land of the Wild Things is beautiful because of the simplicity and familiarity of it all. The forest is like any other you’ve seen a thousand times, as are the dunes of the sandy desert in which Max and Carol, the character who most closely mirrors Max’s fear, anger and loneliness, wander on the way to Carol’s secret model of an ideal world that becomes the inspiration for the goal Max directs the Wild Things on: the construction of a fort(ress) where only the things you want to have happen actually do.

The Wild Things themselves are impressive for the same reasons the environments and the story itself is: they’re remarkably real, bearing no real sign of being the digital creations we expect in movies these days, instead appearing primarily as the large, furry suits they are. Each of the characters seems to touch upon an aspect of Max himself, some emotional or intellectual proxy for the confusion going on inside of Max’s young mind and heart. Like Max himself, the Wild Things are lost and confused, in desperate want of someone to bring them together and make them all safe from the pain and sadness of life in the real world. And like Max, each of them is touched by hope and dream, fear and reason, sadness and the power to move beyond it.

Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are is a film of unusual depth, presented in a package of the most elegantly crafted simplicity you are likely to see in any theater this year or in the next five. If you can remember your youth or if you have a child of your own, you owe it to yourself to see this movie and relive that long past part of your soul that bore those days of pain and confusion, and somehow lifted you to better places in the time since.

Oh, and bring a pack of tissues, you’ll probably need it to watch Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are.


  1. The Web N3rd 10/26/2009
  2. Samantha K 10/26/2009

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