Posted by: Joe | October 17, 2009

“We’ll eat you up–we love you so!”

Until I was about 6, we lived a 3 hour drive from my grandparent’s house, where Where The Wild Things Are sat on a headboard bookshelf of one of the upstairs beds. I vaguely remember my grandfather reading it to me as I sat in his lap next to the wood stove in the kitchen. Of the dozens of children’s books in the house, this is the one that captivated me. Even before I learned how to read, I’d pour over the artwork for hours. 6-7 years ago I got a 6″ model of a Wild Thing for Christmas, and it’s pretty much the only personal item that I keep at my desk at work. To say I’ve been eagerly anticipating this movie is a bit of an understatement.

That generally bites me in the ass. While I lack the ability to manifest my creativity in any kind of artistic manner I have an active, vibrant imagination–and a lot of the time, the movie on the screen doesn’t live up to the vision I’ve created in my head.

So with all that said, I loved Jonze’s film adaptation. It is the movie I wanted to see. Which I think is fairly amazing–the book is just 10 sentences long, and stretching that to feature length certainly leaves a lot of room for interpretation. To Jonze/Eggers’s credit, they manage to expand just enough without the plot feeling contrived.

The film Max was very easy for me to identify with–the biggest similarity being his family, but dozens of other small details about him struck a chord with my inner 9 year old.

It falls a little short of being great. God bless Gandolfini for trying, but he shouldn’t have been cast in one of the main roles–his voice is just too distracting. I thought the dialogue was slightly heavy-handed in a couple of important scenes. The pace through the middle of the movie felt disjointed, slightly plodding then rushing to a climax.

The Wild Things are stunning–minimal CGI allow them to feel genuine and still be fantastic at the same time. They are the book’s artwork come to life. Runny noses and tears reinforce that they are all part of Max’s mind, dealing with the same hurt feelings from his life at home.  Max Records is wonderful, on screen for virtually the entire running time, never succumbing to cutesy hamming for the camera. I’ve enjoyed Karen O’s soundtrack over the past few weeks–it’s even better as part of the film.

This is a movie to remind you what it was like to be 9 years old. Learning to deal with lightning mood shifts, from euphoria to rage. Learning that your family is imperfect. Nothing lasts forever.

And sometimes things do live up to your expectations.

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