Reel Reviews

Where the WIld Things Are - Blu-ray Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}Where the Wild Things Are is almost a brilliant big screen adaptation of the wildly popular Maurice Sendak children's book. Writer/Director Spike Jonze (with co-writer Dave Eggers and Sendak himself always nearby on writing duties) lends his own brand of cerebral innovation to the project, injecting it with a penetrating sense of emotion, fantasy and wonderment that rings true to our childhood sentimentalities. That's the hard part of filmmaking giving us a visceral connection to the story.

But Jonze sadly misses with the easy stuff. The tangible aspects like plot, narration, and good old storytelling are overlooked at the expense of trying to look and feel smart. Jonze admits to emulating the John Cassavetes brand of filmmaking where character personality and natural dialogue progression are afforded precedence over plot and other traditional aspects. A fine endeavor for sure. After all, who doesn't like a good Cassavetes character piece? But unfortunately, the mission fails because Jonze misses with nearly every character in Where the Wild Things Are. For the most part, all are too under-developed or too overly confusing to drive the story, and none is particularly likeable. Jonze made a good decision however, to use practical puppetry from the Jim Henson Creature Shop over pure CGI, as the wild things are absolutely mesmerizing to look at.

Where the  Wild Things AreAs in the book, the heart of the movie is Max (Max Records), the rambunctious and sensitive little boy who feels so misunderstood at home, that escaping to where the wild things are seems like a better option. He's old enough that wearing a whiskered wolf costume and acting like a spoiled brat should be beneath his level of chronological maturity. But we quickly learn through the neglectful actions of his divorced mom (Catherine Keener) and disinterested sister that Max is only acting out for attention... which he hopes to find on a far away island.

Upon his arrival in the foreign land, Max encounters gigantic, wooly creatures - with mix-and-match body parts - that seem as if they should roar, stomp, bite, and generally scare the crap out of a little boy like Max. But instead, we learn they're actually big, moody oafs... that complain too much. Because Jonze's over-sized plush toys actually reflect Max's many adolescent moods firing in all directions, they're sweet, fearful, frightened, overly sensitive, jealous, and highly unpredictable... sometimes in a single scene. But mostly, they're just confusingly muddled and hard to connect with. In bad need of a leader (a.k.a. parent figure), the group's reluctant chief, Carol (James Gandolfini), quickly crowns Max king. Max is initially elated with his newfound role, but soon begins to understand that parenting doesn't come without its challenges.

Where the Wild Things Are constantly strives to reveal an earnest soul through heartfelt dialogue, raw emotion, and viewer sentimentality. And as a film about that, it succeeds. We recall these storybook characters from our childhood, so it's fun seeing them come to life with real voices, emotions and unpredictable predispositions. And knowing that Sendak had input in giving feeling to character, it always seems genuine and meant-to-be. But what's sorely missing from the movie is a formative clay to mold the characters into something larger than their parts. We â"get" that what transpires between Max and his imaginary friends is a righteous allegory that should draw upon the childhood of not only Max, but from every one involved... filmmaker to viewer. But behind the emotion, nostalgia, and symbolism is a frail structure made of cardboard and chewing gum that falters more and more with each passing scene. Once the amazement of seeing the creatures with beautifully rendered CGI faces wears off, we're left wanting something to happen... anything. There's no one to root for... nothing to scare us, and nothing to touch our soul. As the credits roll, it becomes readily evident that we just witnessed one of the most beautiful and profound depictions of dull and boring.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
2 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

This Blu-ray disc is a bit deceiving; it seems loaded but it certainly, for some purists, is missing major components of a blu-ray release; gone are the audio commentaries, the deleted scenes, and featurettes on the mixing of live-action with CGI.

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese .

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1.

Supplements:

Featurettes

  • Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (23:30) Made exclusively for the Blu-ray, Higglety Pigglety is the book Sendak wrote after Where the Wild Things Are. Voiced by Meryl Streep, this short film is a continuation of the surrealistic spirit of the movie and, at its heart, is a fine piece of cinema in its own right.
  • The Absurd Difficulty of Filming a Dog Running and Barking at the Same Time (5:32) A funny look at how shooting one scene can be so difficult to accomplish.
  • Maurice and Spike (3:15) - Sendak, Jonze, and co-writer Dave Eggers are interviewed about bringing the movie to life.
  • Vampire Attack: A Max Records Short (:51) A short about a vampire. Why?
  • Carter Burwell (4:39) - This is a short featurette on the film's score by Burwell; very standard and not very unique.
  • The Kids Take Over the Picture (4:57) This is what happens when kids of the production crew come to work for a day...
  • Max and Spike (6:37) Kid-minded Jonze and his star apparently became pretty close and this shot highlights their relationship that blossomed over the production.
  • The Records Family (6:45) This is the auditioning of Max Records; it's very easy to see why he was selected for the lead.
  • HBO First Look (13:02) This is basic stuff to be compiled solely for blu-ray; nothing wholly original here: interviews, interviews, interviews nothing else really.
  • The Big Prank (3:23) A very silly and unfunny practical joke.

Number of Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD) Digital copy (on disc) DVD copy

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