Cover Art and Menus: 9/10
Would I have this cover as a poster? Yes. I love it. It’s simple and to the point. It’s got personality without being too flashy or pushy about this movie based on a classic children’s book. The menu is functional, that’s about it.
- Where The Wild Things Are Shorts – This is the DVD version so the extras are slim pickings. There is a short by the director and star that involves a set of vampire teeth. There is a behind the scenes look at all the children who were allowed to run riot on the set. That’s about it. If you are looking for more, buy the Blu-Ray (what a scam).
The Movie: 6/10
A young boy is having a hard time learning about why people like his stupid sister and her friends act like jerks. He is also trying to learn to let go of his mother’s full attention as he grows older and her time is divided between him, his sister, her job, and potential love interests. Max is learning about life, that’s about it. He’s not being mistreated, or neglected, or any truly wretched things in life that a boy might be subjected to that would lead him to misbehave badly, or need to explode in a fit of rage and acting out…which he does.
So, there is my first little gripe about the movie. Max is a standard boy with some hard truths to learn at a young age, and that sucks, it’s just that it’s not so bad it should lead him to break free, run away and have to escape his life. That puts a kink in the rest of the story. He runs away, gets on a boat, sails to a distant island and finds a group of monster type creatures who are in desperate need of attention and some cheering up.
Max doesn’t just escape to a fantasy of cheery people and bright colorful places, not at all in fact. He conjures up a place populated with angry, violent, depressing creatures who have a hefty size both in bulk and in psychological problems. My husband, the brilliant Mr. Ascully, says this movie isn’t for kids, in fact it would scare them and the message would be lost. That message isn’t totally clear, but it kind of floats around the ideas of trust, unconditional love, learning to let go of people and things in life that drag you down….cheery colorful things like that.
I appreciate the sentiment and the look of the movie is pretty cool. The problems though, outweigh the pleasure for me. The creatures are supposed to be whimsical and believable, right? I was distracted the whole time by the shear klunkiness of the suits. I love that they aren’t CGI and the folks inside do amazing performances, absolutely. The thing is, they are too not right, or too real, or not real enough, or something. I can’t pin point it, but I was distracted a lot by the movement restrictions and the wire-work some of them had to do. Why I couldn’t put away my grown up mind and just see it like a kid, I don’t know, but it was a problem in several scenes.
The acting overall is really quality. Max Records is incredibly strong and charming. The voices of the things are OK, nothing special for me. I know it’s Tony Soprano and the creepy neighbor from American Beauty, but in the end, the sound recordings didn’t quite match the scenes, just a bit too disconnected and it added to my distraction with the creature suits.
I have to say, in spite of the things I don’t like, I really really enjoyed the movie, the story maybe. Those moments of goodness that made me smile, cry, squint and grin, they all overwhelmingly made it well worth watching and letting some messages soak in here and there. I am torn between the awkward things that had the nerve to break that bubble of belief that I so love to have when watching a “kid’s” movie, and my total love of the experience of seeing young Max conquer his demons before they become bad choices through the rest of his life.
Maybe Mr. Ascully is right, it’s not a kid movie and it’s not a grown up movie. It’s got some artsy qualities, great music, and an almost dreamy quality at times, mostly the scenes at home with Max’s mom played by Katherine Keener who I LOVE. It’s got lots of poor stunt work, odd creature design choices, and the occasional moment of obnoxious filmmaker indulgence. It’s a mixed bag, let’s just leave it at that.
Audio & Video: 6/10 (By Ascully)
If you get the opportunity to watch Where The Wild Things Are on Blu-Ray make sure you do. The DVD release we looked at was kind of underwhelming. It’s not that the transfer is bad, in fact in the brightly lit scenes it’s one of the better DVD’s I have seen. It’s the dark scenes (which there are many) where the black levels do not hold up. The scenes where young Max first enters the forest are so difficult to see it seems to me it might be either Spike Jonze being overly artsy or a problem with the original print. Who knows? but it certainly detracted from some of the movie for me.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix fares much better than the picture with a stunning subtle soundtrack that really adds to the haunting whimsy that the film seems to exude. Music is handled well. Voice is well mixed and the moments of action in the forest really shake the room. Overall I enjoyed the movie for what it is. It’s not a perfect film but I really appreciate the visual style Spike Jonze injects. The issue for me is who is the movie for? It’s a little scary for kids and I don’t see what adults can take from it that they have not already had conveyed by the book. But if you are in anyway interested in the book or the story it’s certainly worth a watch.
I would recommend this movie, mostly. It’s not one that digs into my mind and plants itself as a classic. The cost of a DVD is pretty low, but even at that, I say rent it if you want to give it a try. It’s lovely in its own ways, just not lovely enough for me to spend the full amount of cash to keep it on myself. I would rather buy the book.
Overall Score 6/10