Thursday, 3 June 2010

No.164 : Where The Wild Things Are

The classic children’s book is brought to the screen by Director Spike Jonze with mostly positive results.

The film opens with Max, a young boy who is loud and annoying, running around screaming. I started watching this film on a plane and the head phones were off straight away. Still the Quest is a demanding beast so on I soldiered as Max ran about making a pest of himself to his lovely mother Catherine Keener and to her slobbish boy friend Mark Ruffalo. Max has clearly got no friends, and has to resort to attacking passing neighbours with snow balls to get any attention.

Pretty soon Mom has had enough and after yelling at Max he runs away from home in his natty wolf boy costume. At this point the film slips from reality into fantasy as we follow Max’s adventures in a far away land conjured up by his annoying brain. After a boat trip he finds himself washed up on a remote beach that looks suspiciously like that one which always shows up in ‘Star Trek’. Max soon encounters the inhabitants of the island, a lumbering crew of ‘Wild Things’ that look like a faded reunion show for ‘The Banana Splits’.

The beasts resemble stuffed toys but rather than be a fearsome crew they are all pretty nice and are voiced by celebrities. The Tony Soprano character is at first keen to eat Max but when the lad develops a bit of spirit and declares himself king, the monsters soon agree to his rule. Not all is well however as the characters of the beasts resemble the moods of Max and that’s never going to end well.

After an overlong dirt ball fight some of the monsters get hurt while others start to doubt the wisdom of their ’king’. Max himself realises what a difficult job being a leader is and how his Mom maybe isn’t so bad after all. Can max get home before the local nonce finds his secret hidey hole and will he be a bit nicer to his Mom following his experiences?

This is a strange kind of film. It’s based on a book for 5-7 year olds but seems to be trying to tells us grown ups about our lost innocence and imaginations, through the medium of muppet. The film opened badly with 20 odd minutes of screaming and it looked like Canadian public access TV, with its rocky cameras and no expense spent sets.

It does get better when we reach Monster Isle and I was quite impressed by the monsters. The suits are great and although the expressions were realised digitally you can’t see the joins. One thing that was a bit jarring was having the cartoon monsters from the book lifted straight out and placed in a real environment. In the book the cartoon monsters lived in a cartoon forest and didn’t look quite so unnatural.

I fully appreciate that we are dealing with a young boys fantasy here, and that was well shown when one monster got an arm yanked off and saw dust came out. He’s obviously playing with a big toy box here and although the lessons were a bit in your face there were still a few laughs along the way.

I did find the voice acting somewhat distracting with the celebrities kind of stealing the limelight form the excellent costumes. The film runs a fairly compact 90 minutes and although it’s not a patch on the book there is enough care and attention to detail on show to make this a journey worth taking.

W Rating 16/23
Best Bit : “Hide in me”