Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

“It is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong then you are compromised as a human being. You’re going to trip over that for a good part of your life.” – Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are

Warner Bros.  in association with  Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Playtone present…

An American fantasy drama from the imagination of Maurice Sendak’s children’s books with the same title! The Writer and Illustrator was inspired from Walt’ Disney’s animated film “Fantasia” while infused in his work a melancholic childhood growing up as a Jew and experiencing death in his extended family in the Holocaust.

Maurice’s take on the “wild things” have a deeper meaning not just simply intentionally making these creatures grotesque, actually his ideas came from visiting aunts and uncles back in his early days. These experiences he used later on drew attention to readers and critics to censor or even being banned in libraries. But the Director enabled these fearsome looking creatures to actually look timid, shy, aloof and with the sense of being frustrated in life! In relation, at least they were not horses which were an early concept of his illustrations.

Friends and Families, they are part of our lives and we all come from these smaller communities which made us who we are today. Being with these set of people, we learned to acknowledge them to help us become an individual who will either become a stronger or stranger person when we grow up. In every child’s eyes they can see their world and to those around them it may be. good or bad simply put!

It was very evident to see that people criticized the film for its scary content that made it less attracted to viewers. On the other hand, we could say that it was being thematic on what real life is all about, what makes children act that way and how do they cope up with their own fears. On the other end, living out these fantasies and escapism to what they used to call home makes the story come into full circle which was always been the objective of Mr. Sendak.

Even the support of the Productions companies and people like Tom Hanks (Cast Away) from his Playtone Company was overwhelming and commendable seeing that projects like these can push through when given in the right direction and attention. It was even passed on to Disney, as they made a test run for an animated film but was not pursued further since Glenn Keane and John Lasseter built their own company Pixar. Universal Studios tried it as well but failed with their own rendition of a CGI film. The studio held over the rights until Spike Jonze came into the scene and was well liked by the Author himself which is why they needed a new home for the “monsters” to live in and so they found Warner Bros. to bring them in and provide the Director and the Cast and Crew to stay with them in the long haul!

Max Records (The Brothers Bloom) plays the leading role Max (no kidding). The young actor was chosen and has set his sights with temperament concerns or in short to be annoying! He goes on outburst of tantrums and vandalism and yet still be considered as a typical child who only wants and ceaselessly needing the attention of his family.

Max have seen his life and it was less than what he expected and that made it painful for him to accept seeing his sister, Pepita Emmerichs (Blue Heelers) as Claire spending more time with her boyfriend and neighbors rather than play with him and his mother, Catherine Keener (The 40 Year Old Virgin) as Connie who does not give in to his demands to cook his food! Now I know why he became a monster “The Hulk” since he was the reason for Max to be angry and runs away. Mark Ruffalo (Collateral) joins a cast for a minor role which even sees the young Max and the actor work for the second time in the same year.

A shorter period was given to the so called reality Max was facing being implied on the other casts so that it will enable the Director and Screenwriter to maximize the time for the child to “rule” his kingdom” it may simply to be mere acts of playing but rather to give it emphasis on how he interacts with others even if they are just a figment of his imagination then this can be fully be understood on why they behave this way.

To make it as close to the work of Mr. Sendak’s books, one of the best in the business, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop provided the animatronics as they stepped in to take the puppeteering chores when the original VFX Supervisor quitted. So, it came out fantastic the creatures made and rendered was uncanny and to give life into these wild things, they were able to integrate both live actors and animatronics which turned out adoring and fascinating! Supervisors Adam Keenan and John Nolan of the shop did their homework and have straight A’s in the process!

Canadian actress Catherine O’ Hara (Home Alone) as Judith the squeeze (not too tight) of Ira who was voiced by the soft spoken Forest Whitaker (Blown Away). They provided the banters and insults while Nick Farnell and Sam Longley respectively moved their way to become one of the two pairs of love birds (not literally) on the set! While veteran actor Chris Cooper (American Beauty) stars as Douglas who is Carol’s best friend and confidant. He was coordinated with John Leary to lend his reaching out disposition to the man size Fowl! (enough Peter…you’re beating up the wrong guy)

From the multi-awarded hit series “The Sopranos” James Gandolfini (The Last Castle) as Carol the de-facto leader of the pack! On the aspect of motor skills, his beleaguered musings were hands down responded by Vincent Crowley. Another HBO talent from “Six Feet Under” Lauren Ambrose (Cold Souls) as K.W. Carol’s on and off girlfriend. The hate and love relationship between these two was heartfelt at the same time heartbreaking. The lover was given also two actors to work with Alice Parkinson and Garon Michael they have been given the responsibility to be her prison guards.

Michael Berry Jr. (Mission: Impossible III) as the Bull who has his own world just like Max! The sullen, lonesome creature’s burden was carried by two men Angus Thompson and Mark McCracken and finally, my personal favorite Paul Dano (Gigantic) as Alexander, the mistreated, gullible and bullied goat while Sonny Gerasimowicz is there at least to have a shoulder to lean and cry on!

The characters were wonderfully acted, genuine and full of talented individuals! Director Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers gave life to its screenplay to jumpstart the project with a thought compelling premise in reaching out to children with anger issues. It was even used with a hand held camera by the Director to show his point of view on the personal interaction being embraced by the creatures and Max to tell the story as it happens from fun to its censored themes. In fact, the book shows a child prancing naked with the creatures while made it unavailable for consumption from 1990 to 1999.

By giving weight on the message to viewers especially to parents and to their children that this film is all about childhood and their experiences in life encompassed by happiness, daydreaming, insecurities, rebellion and attention from people around them especially form their families.

I share the same sentiments with the Author of the book seeing this film was nothing that was ever made before. It was like Sesame Street and all of its characters that became more aggressive and at the same time lonely. It felt like you were in another place, a place where you can really explore your inner being and make it into reality and in those moments that you wander around in your own far away land, one thing was still certain…you can still get hurt physically and emotionally but more importantly, you learn, you grow up and at least in some way understand that you can be better and find a way to let go! From this point, a child can find his way back home…


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