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Where the Wild Things Are


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#41 opus

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 01:13 PM

Twitch's review:

QUOTE
I'm sure you've all seen the trailer. Its open-ended simplicity promises a lot to a point where it's slightly misleading. Sure, the film is certainly a journey, but not one that expands Maurice Sendak's narrative with adventure plot twists and some narrator telling us about exotic lands in a galaxy far, far away. No, we get the classic children's book: dumpy monsters on an island in some kid's wild imagination. And Spike Jonze's adaptation is a heartfelt and very emotional interpretation.

In interviews, Jonze seems aware of of the propriety the book's fans seem entitled to and its pressures, but also what makes an adaptation work. Not carbon copy (Zack Snyder's Watchmen) or a glitzy "updated" makeover (Michael Bay's Transformers), but whittling theme down to its purest form, and riffing off that.


#42 Overstreet

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 01:20 PM

That's what I hoped to hear.

#43 SDG

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 01:35 PM

It doesn't seem possible. If it works, Jonze is a freaking magician.

#44 Tyler

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 11:59 PM

FWIW, Max Records was also in The Brothers Bloom . He played Mark Ruffalo's character, Stephen, as a child.

#45 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 06:34 AM

Just saw the tv spot. The Arcade Fire song is gone--too hip for kids? (Or suburban parents?)

Edited by Buckeye Jones, 09 October 2009 - 06:34 AM.


#46 Persona

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 08:57 AM

I noticed that too. I thought about coming here and asking what the new music was but I forgot to. It reminded me, somehow, of Danielson with a bit less wackiness.

#47 Overstreet

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Posted 09 October 2009 - 10:25 AM

Aren't they just switching now to the *actual* soundtrack, which has been streaming online for a while now? Maybe they realized that the Arcade Fire song is becoming so popular that they don't want folks to think it's the *actual* theme of the film.

Although, in my mind, that song *will* always be the theme of this film.

#48 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 01:58 PM

Todd McCarthy @ Variety:

Fleet of foot, emotionally attuned to its subject and instinctively faithful to its celebrated source, "Where the Wild Things Are" earns a lot of points for its hand-crafted look and unhomogenized, dare-one-say organic rendering of unrestrained youthful imagination. But director Spike Jonze's sharp instincts and vibrant visual style can't quite compensate for the lack of narrative eventfulness that increasingly bogs down this bright-minded picture. . . .

Perhaps the greatest liberty Jonze and screenwriting cohort Dave Eggers take with Sendak's little yarn is their dispensing with the flowering of Max's bedroom, instead having him run off into some woods in his white wolf costume and find a sailboat that takes him through turbulent seas to a distant shore. . . .

Free to have the wild things speak however they wanted, Jonze and Eggers surprisingly give them the voices and attitudes of middle-aged urban kibitzers; vaguely complainy and neurotic, the creatures are dominated by their sense of isolation and sadness. On the face of it, this is a choice with some wit behind it. But it also defangs the beasts from the outset -- one never fears that any of them would dream of making a meal out of Max -- and in the long run makes them far too ordinary. . . .



#49 Ryan H.

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 11:53 AM

Massawyrm's review over at AintitCool had an interesting, less hyperbolic spin on the film:

"What Jonze does here is put Max on an island and forces him to watch his whole home life play out before his eyes in terms he can understand. And whether you want to believe the island is real or something playing out in Max’s subconscious is up to you. And the way he does it is marvelous. The eloquence in which he boils down the loneliness we all experience at one time or another is nothing short of brilliant. I fully understand why the people who LOVE this movie love it. But everyone else? They’ll be bored to tears.

Nothing happens in this movie. Nothing. It is one of those rare films that can be completely summed up in one or two lines without skipping any major details. When things get too boring, one of the monsters grabs Max by the hand and takes him somewhere on the island to show him something. Or one of the monsters throws a fit. Or we get another pop song fueled montage. And when the boredom passes, Jonze puts that back in his bag of tricks to randomly draw from again when things inevitably slow down. Again. Because really, nothing happens. The film is a two hour metaphor for a 9 year old boy working out his shit.

Spike Jonze has taken a relatively respectable budget and created an arthouse film about childhood that had our family-filled audience buzzing with chattering, bored children. Don’t get me wrong, as an arthouse film it is brilliant. If you go into it with that mentality, you’ll come out feeling like you’ve been taken on a profound tour of childhood that will take you back in (potentially) bad ways. But you won’t have fun. You won’t walk out humming a great tune and feeling like your life has been reaffirmed. You’re gonna walk out thinking about your own dejected, maladjusted childhood. Or that weird kid in your class who Max reminds you of. Or a brother or sister who acted the same way.

[...]

As a representation of a young boy’s psyche and the worries that trouble him, it is an achievement. But in the context of being a film outside of the arthouse circuit being marketed as a fun, adventure film? Absolute failure. There’s not a moment of adventure here. Not a moment of fantastic danger. Not an instance in which we feel our hero is in any kind of real jeopardy. Nothing that will bring audiences back again and again. This isn’t WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY or THE IRON GIANT or CORALINE or even WATERSHIP DOWN. This isn’t a transcendent family film that will become deeper and richer as you grow from child to adult. It is THE 400 BLOWS with monsters. It was never meant for families. It was meant for critics.

Lyrical in its poetry and beautiful in its melancholy, this will play strong to those going in with an understanding of what Jonze wants to show them. But anyone looking for a good time has signed on for the wrong boat ride to the worst possible island. Beautiful enough to see on the big screen, but not powerful or moving enough to recommend, I find myself very conflicted and foresee a film that will be lauded by critics and snubbed by the bored masses. But as the dust settles, I think I’m going to find myself with the masses on this one. I wanted to love it, I really, really did, but I was just too bored to."



Edited by Ryan H., 15 October 2009 - 11:56 AM.


#50 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 12:39 PM

Glenn Kenny:

I emerged from a screening of Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things are last night in a thoroughly schizoid state. I had a great deal of admiration for the filmmaking, for the craft and the aesthetic choices that resulted in a fantasy film shot in a near-documentary style. Make that, rather, a child's notion of a documentary style; I very much dug a shot of hero Max and his put-upon mom from under the desk that she's working at, not to mention the from-a-crouch approach the camera takes to the Wild Things' bonfire.

But there was always something about it that was setting my teeth on edge, and the aggregate effect of that thing, whatever it was, was to send me out of the theater believing that I had despised each and every single frame of it. A disproportionate reaction, to be sure. . . .

And i do believe that a big part of my problem with the film stems from what might be seen as an Eggersian attitude, for I found the film's predominant mode of being was not so much as a celebration of childhood, or a painstaking examination of childhood emotional states, as I found it to be a rather snotty privileging of childhood, specifically male childhood. I was particularly put off by the film's coda (I don't know that this is actually a spoiler, but I suppose I ought to alert you), which seems to direct a very specific message at single mothers, that message being, if you even try to carve out a minute corner of life for yourself, your little boy is going to turn on you, and then you'll be sorry, so best not to even go there. . . .

I don't know if I'm allowed to say what I thought of the film yet, but I guess it opens in 12 hours or whatever, so I'll come back to this then.

But I will say this much: As Massawyrm points out, "whether you want to believe the island is real or something playing out in Max’s subconscious is up to you." But this raises a significant issue: How long is Max away from home?

In the book, Max goes up to his bedroom, pouts and plays in fantasyland, and then comes back to the real world to find that his dinner is "still" warm. He hasn't been gone long at all, not in reality, and he has been safe in his room the whole time.

In the film, on the other hand, Max runs out of the house, down the street, to the river, into a boat... and then spends what seem to be at least several days on that island. So is he REALLY gone for several days -- and after explicitly running away from his mother? Or does he "really" come home later that same night?

Either way, this marks a significant departure from the book: Max is no longer safe in his room, working out his emotional issues. Instead, he's a runaway -- possibly gone from home for days, certainly gone from home for a few hours at least -- and that puts an extra emotional toll on his mother that was never there in the book.

I mentioned this to a colleague of mine last night, and he said I was talking like a "new father". (My colleague has grandkids, FWIW.)

#51 M. Leary

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 12:56 PM

Because really, nothing happens. The film is a two hour metaphor for a 9 year old boy working out his shit.

If you go into it with that mentality, you’ll come out feeling like you’ve been taken on a profound tour of childhood that will take you back in (potentially) bad ways. But you won’t have fun. You won’t walk out humming a great tune and feeling like your life has been reaffirmed. You’re gonna walk out thinking about your own dejected, maladjusted childhood. Or that weird kid in your class who Max reminds you of. Or a brother or sister who acted the same way.

Lyrical in its poetry and beautiful in its melancholy


This could be a review of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. As this will be my daughter's first real cinema experience of all time, I hope all the above is true.

#52 M. Leary

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:57 PM

I mentioned this to a colleague of mine last night, and he said I was talking like a "new father". (My colleague has grandkids, FWIW.)


Are there many parts in the film that would be too scary for a toddler?

#53 SDG

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 04:04 PM

Are there many parts in the film that would be too scary for a toddler?

Depends on the toddler. Many wouldn't have a problem. Some might.

#54 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 04:20 PM

I heard a few very young kids laughing quite heartily at certain points, at last night's screening, for whatever that's worth.

#55 SDG

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 06:19 AM

My review.

#56 Rachel Anne

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:32 AM

My review.


Thanks as always. I look forward to seeing the movie myself. What do you think about kids? Have your kids seen it yet? If not, do you intend to take them to it?

#57 M. Dale Prins

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:45 AM

My review.

In other words, Jonze is a freaking magician?

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#58 Overstreet

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:47 AM

Chris Willman sees my link to SDG's on Facebook and responds:

That's two full letter grades too high. Have I gone on enough on FB about how much I hate this movie?



#59 M. Leary

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:48 AM

Chris Willman sees my link to SDG's on Facebook and responds:

That's two full letter grades too high. Have I gone on enough on FB about how much I hate this movie?


Sorry, who is Chris Willman?

#60 Christian

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:53 AM

Inspired by the Where the Wild Things Are movie, Andrew O'Hehir compiles quite a list of "kids' movies that aren't kids' movies." Some good choices there.