Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

DailyView: Day 255, Movie 356

One of my favorite childhood books was the beautifully illustrated Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, but when I discovered that it was being adapted into a full fledged live action feature film, I was not too excited. It was a weird thought to adapted a short picture book into a full length movie. Then, in my memory, I had heard some negative word of mouth about it, so I did not go to see it.

Since it was on HBO Max, I thought I would watch it as part of the DailyView, which was when I discovered that the Rotten Tomatoes rating was at 73%, considerably higher than I thought it would be. I also learned that it made several people’s best films list that year.

Now that I have watched it, I can see both sides to this. I have some problems.

Max (Max Records) was a troubled, lonely and problem-making pre-teen. He lost control of his behavior several times, sending him into a violent spiral. destroying property and physically acting out. He seemed to regret his actions when he would settle down, but his life appeared to be quite sad.

When, one night, when his mom (Catherine Keener) had a guest (Mark Ruffalo) over for dinner, Max flipped out totally and wound up biting her on her shoulder. Max took off out of the house and ran away. He found himself by the edge of water with a boat that he climbed in and sailed into the sea.

After several days of voyage, he found himself on an island where giant creatures lived. To prevent these creature from eating him, Max told them that he was a king, and they adopted him into their group as a king.

Carol (James Gandolfini) was one of the biggest supporters of Max among the creatures, but he was sad because of the absence of KW (Lauren Ambrose), one of the group’s members.

Directed by Spike Jonze, the one thing you have to get through your mind is that this is not a children’s movie, despite it being based on a beloved children’s picture book and told from the POV of a child. This is a movie about childhood and the troubles faced by a child.

The film was very dour and depressing through most of the run time and the time in the land of Wild Things was not what i would have thought it would be. Even when something fun was happening, it was tempered by the fact that it was terribly dangerous or that someone was going to be hurt because of it. There was not the amount of joy that I thought would be.

The visuals of the creatures were fantastic and there were so many beautiful shots, but the entire film felt darker than I expected, in tone and in visual. Again, not that it was a bad thing, but it was just unexpected. When you realize that this is not for kids, it makes more sense in the overall plan.

This was better than I thought it was going to be, yet I am not sure if I agreed with some of the choices of the filmmaking.

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