Monday, April 12, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

ALMOST WORTH IT: (Spike Jonze) It's the children's book come to life, but this go-round also aged and matured, almost cynical and sadly jaded. Yes, the imagination and wonderment that made the picture book is deeply explored in the film, but to a stronger point of melancholy nostalgia, rather than mystical escapism. If you're not familiar, the story is about Max, a little boy with few friends and lots of creative imagination. Always striving for attention from his family, he's used to finding ways to entertain himself despite the neglect - sending him on a journey to a land far, far away from everything. He washes up on the shore of a shattered forest, inhabited by a group of giant creatures of all shapes and personalities, who we can tell are suffering from emotional and physical unhappiness within their circle. Claiming to be king, the creatures rejoice in a leader who can bring light back into their community and as a result, vow to do whatever the new king says. Max delights in the new responsibility, which grants him acceptance, friendship and respect all at the same time. It's during his stay on the wild island that Max realizes what life is all about, particularly when your imagination can no longer solve all your problems. Sure, you can find joy by letting go and just having fun, but the reality is that there is more to life. It's about building and growing relationships with the people you love. It's about compromise and sacrificing things for the betterment of society. It's also a reminder that not everyone is happy all the time, and keeping your own spirit in perspective helps you help others.

The film tells that story well. The morale is candid and clear and the chemistry between a slew of phenomenal voices (Keener, Gandolfini, O'Hare, Whitaker and Paul Dano) and an intelligent script was entertaining, and in my opinion, the life force behind its success. The film is definitely not for children. It's filled with dark humor and sardonic thematics. It also covers heavy topics, leaving your heart and mind slightly downtrodden and oddly unsettled. I can't say that I am glad I saw it, or that you're missing out if you don't. It didn't leave an impression, other than a slight frown and lost hope. The storybook created a fantastic sense of imagination, both supporting flagrant make-believe and inspiring individuals to hold onto their innocence. The film, however, borders on belittling that theme - reminding us grown-ups that life is happening and that it mostly sucks, no matter where you "go" to escape it. Bottom line, this film was a literal bummer!

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