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'Wild Things' delights

Article Published: Oct. 22, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Wild Things' delights

"You're like Robin Williams with horns." Max Records and James Gandolfini star in "Where the Wild Things Are."

First, a warning: this is not a children's movie.

Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, a 101-minute adaptation of Maurice Sendek's 1963 classic, is simply a film told from the viewpoint of a very confused child. Much like Elliott from E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Wild Things' Max has probably seen more of his fair share of sadness and rejection in life - he's lonely, and he's got some anger in him, too.

Elliott had it easy - E.T. showed up in his backyard and loved Reese's. Max, after an afternoon and evening of igloo making and questionably chosen snowball fights, has to find his friends on his own.

Much like the book, Max (newcomer Max Records) has a disagreement with his mother (Catherine Keener, The 40-Year-old Virgin) and runs out of the house. He soon finds a boat tied on the side of a lake, and after a long journey through rough waters he lands on an island inhabited by large, juvenile creatures.

One of the interesting aspects of Wild Things is that all the creatures he meets are very childlike in nature - the kind of creatures that like sleeping in a big pile. Despite their appearances they're quite friendly, for the main part, and seem to enjoy all the simple things that Max does.

Like E.T., I think the creatures are supposed to act as outlets of Max's personality - he discusses his hopes, dreams and fears with them, and they respond the way a child would. There isn't much conflict in the film, either, as Jonze and his co-writer on the screenplay, novelist Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), are more interested in the interactions between Max and the monsters than conflict and resolution.

I was initially unsure if Jonze, whose previous two films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) were genius but offbeat, was the right fit for Wild Things, but it didn't take long for any concerns to be put to ease. His style - slightly grainy photography, longer takes - fits the mood of the story perfectly. It's told entirely from Max's perspective, as well, never taking any time to observe and reflect on Max. All of the moments with the odd, giant creatures have a sense of wonder and excitement to them.

As I mentioned earlier, Wild Things is not a children's movie - though I believe most children will love it. But it's a smart film, never too happy or sad, that reflects on the fears that we face - and the ways we overcome those fears. Adults will probably enjoy this film more than their children.
Where the Wild Things Are, rated PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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