More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 3.57%
Average: 16.07%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 20 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

Where the Wild Things Are
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"Fear and loathing in fantasyland."
5 stars

This is how we’re introduced to Max (Max Records), the little-boy hero of "Where the Wild Things Are": he’s rampaging through his house, “hunting” the family dog — growling at it, finally tackling it.

Max’s “hunt” reminded me of when my pomeranian does much the same thing to my cats. She isn’t trying to kill or even hurt the cats — it’s just play. So, too, with Max, who feels wildness in his soul, inchoate feelings of abandonment and rage he can only deal with by devolving. His mom is divorced and busy, his dad is never around, his older sister is growing away from him. There’s nothing much Max can do but growl and howl.

Hunter S. Thompson prefaced Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Samuel Johnson’s line “He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Johnson’s line could as well have led into Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, which has entranced kids and scandalized certain adults for generations. Spike Jonze’s film version may reverse the equation: adults may get more out of it than kids will, and indeed Jonze has spoken of it as more a film about childhood than a film for children. In the book, Max is sent to bed without supper, and imagines that his bedroom turns into a vast shaggy forest inhabited by “wild things” — massive creatures who at first want to eat him, until he convinces them to worship him as a king. In the movie, Max sees his mother (Catherine Keener) on the couch with her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) and loses it — he “acts out,” biting his mom on the shoulder and taking off into the night, eventually finding a boat and floating off to the island of the wild things.

Where the Wild Things Are was shot (beautifully, by cinematographer Lance Acord) in various parts of Australia, and the locale makes about as much sense as a boy’s fecund, capricious fantasy of the perfect place — it has a forest, a desert, and a sea. The forest is usually dark, though when Max and the wild things run out to the cliffs, it’s perfect orange dusk. This is an anomaly, an idiosyncratic art film with a big budget, psychologically dense yet emotionally transparent. Max’s pain is reflected by the wild things, a morose and grumbling pack, including the big destroyer Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), who may stand in for Max’s Id.

Essentially, the movie is about Max’s journey from childish solipsism (“Woman, feed me!” he bellows at his mom on her date night) to an awareness of situations and feelings outside himself. Max’s new responsibilities as the “king” of the wild things — he has promised to banish sadness from their land — bring him to a greater understanding of what his mom deals with. The bickering couple Ira (Forest Whitaker) and Judith (Catherine O’Hara) may represent Max’s divorced parents, while the distant but warm KW (Lauren Ambrose) may be both a big-sister and mother figure. The narrative is free-form enough to be interpreted any number of ways, none of which will be right or wrong.

This is a strange (and moving) heffalump indeed, a future cult classic if ever there was one, and to believe in it you have to believe in the unfocused anger of a nine-year-old who doesn’t understand much of anything until others look to him for guidance. He learns, as it were, on the job, and he is imperfect. The movie, on the other hand, strikes me as perfect on every level. Some will find it amorphous and even boring — it’s not the usual CGI razzle-dazzle we’ve been led to expect from movies based on children’s literature, with the latest hot comedian playing to the rafters through pounds of latex.

At its best, it communicates the pain of being a boy who gets rid of that pain by making a beast out of himself, before learning to put childish — and wild — things behind him.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/19/09 08:17:49
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

6/13/13 Marty An honest, unique look at childhood. elicits fear, exhilaration, escape. Artful and emotive 5 stars
6/10/10 Rochelle Norlund I love it and love scenes that has Carol and Max, and wish for a sequel of this movie. 5 stars
5/09/10 Dr.Lao When you've outgrown the book, this movie makes a wonderful adjunct 5 stars
12/16/09 girl almost perfect-o 5 stars
12/03/09 Shawn This movie was raw, furious and poignant, just as real life is. Great job to all! 5 stars
11/04/09 Anonymous I loved this. 5 stars
11/04/09 Kurtis A wonderful look into the mind of an 8 year old. Brilliant and beautiful! 5 stars
10/31/09 The GLC Beautiful, full of child like imagination and very human as well 5 stars
10/31/09 karamashi Utterly Fantastic. One of the Best films of the Year. 5 stars
10/26/09 Alex41 Psychologist Jerome Bruner argues that narrative engages us because it teaches us how to 5 stars
10/25/09 millersxing A more vulnerable approach to a timeless children's story adds greater emotional resonance. 5 stars
10/25/09 GanjaBoy33 In growing numbers, these leaders work hand-in- glove with community partners, families, st 3 stars
10/24/09 BadGirl91 Finally, and most importantly, by law, ESDC is obligated to afford condemnees a formal oppo 2 stars
10/24/09 Arnold21 Once the chapbook came out, I had no urge to continue searching for a home for Cackling Jac 3 stars
10/24/09 R.W. Welch Visually remarkable. Story line sags in spots. B- 4 stars
10/23/09 Ganry58 Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultur 3 stars
10/21/09 Rob More movies should be made like this; or more movies like this should be made. 5 stars
10/20/09 g. well done. 4 stars
10/19/09 Jared Horrible movie... I'd love to know what drug you have to be on to enjoy it. 2 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  16-Oct-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 02-Mar-2010


  DVD: 02-Mar-2010

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast