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Where the Wild Things Are

Released

Latest Home Video

Mar 02, 2010

MPAA Rating:

PG


Run Time:

101

Cast

Max Records

Catherine O'Hara

Forest Whitaker

Studio

2009 Warner Brothers Pictures

Official Website >>

Still shot from the movie: Where the Wild Things Are.

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Reviewed by

OverallB-
ViolenceC+
SexA-
LanguageB+
Drugs/AlcoholA-
Run Time101

Making the Grades

Maurice Sendak’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is only 39 pages long, with very little text and distinctive illustrations. So turning the minimalist children’s story about a young boy who throws a tantrum into a 94-minute screen production takes some creative license on the part of Director Spike Jonze.

In this film adaptation, Max (Max Records) appears to be a bit older than his literary counterpart. He lives at home with his single mom (Catherine Keeper) and his teenaged sister (Pepita Emmerichs). Mom also has a boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo), which Max doesn’t seem to be too happy about.

One night when the boyfriend is over, Max throws a tantrum, bites his mother during the scuffle and then dashes out of the house into the dark night. He runs and runs until he stumbles upon a small boat moored on the shore. Hopping into it, he sets sail across the open waters and eventually is tossed onto the beach of a strange island.

Initially Max is frightened of the ferocious creatures he discovers there, especially Carol (voice by James Gandolfini) who is smashing the other inhabitants’ wooden houses in a fit of rage. He is even more afraid when the monsters discover him and threaten to eat him for dinner. Mustering all of his pint-sized courage, Max stands up to the very big dwellers and declares himself a king.

It is soon evident that not everyone in this tropical location is happy. In fact there is a lot of loneliness, anger, jealousy and even some abusive behavior. KW (voice by Lauren Ambrose) has gone off to find other friends. Judith (voice by Catherine O’Hara) and Ira (voice by Forest Whitaker) are working on their relationship and Alexander (voice by Paul Dano) just wants to feel like someone is listening to him.

Believing that Max is indeed a king, the Wild Things are eager to let him try and make everything right among them. Unfortunately it isn’t any easier for Max to fix things in this fantasy world than it is in his real world.

While the movie offers some beautiful visuals, the story feels too brooding and pensive, especially for children. It’s offbeat quirkiness—something that Jonze has become known for in his other films—borders on the bizarre at times. And the comparisons between Max’s life at home and on the island will likely be difficult for young kids to grasp. Small viewers may also be bothered by the perilous situations Max encounters and some of the more intense depictions of emotions. Along with almost being eaten, Max is caught in a powerful ocean storm, nearly hit by falling trees and is later swallowed by one of the Wild Things. Even a pretend war that Max initiates turns ugly when several of the creatures are injured and Douglas (voice by Chris Cooper) has his arm pulled off.

Luckily, as in the book, Max has the option of hopping into his boat and heading back to his Mom. Yet none of the problems, either with his family or with the monsters, seem to be resolved. There are no happy endings and no sense of moving on to a better place. Instead, audiences merely experience a slice of life in the imaginary world of Max. If you love the book, that might be enough. But shelling out money to watch these Wild Things engage in a rowdy rumpus while Max bosses them around only left me howling over my depleted entertainment budget.

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Review

Discussion Ideas After The Movie

Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Where the Wild Things Are.

Why is Max so angry with his mother? How does he deal with the loneliness and frustration he is feeling? How does he use his imagination to escape the unhappiness in his life?

What are the challenges of adapting a book to the screen, especially one with as little storyline as found in Where The Wild Things Are?

News & Views About Where the Wild Things Are:

Canadian Movie Ratings

BC
SK
G May Frighten Young Children.
AB PG Not Recommended For Young Children.
MB PG
ON PG Frightening Scenes.
QC G
NB
NS
NL
PE
PG

Canadian Home Video Rating: PG

Watch @ Home

Details on home video releases of Where the Wild Things Are...

Release Date:2 March 2010
Where the Wild Things Are releases on DVD with the following:
- Series of “Where the Wild Things Are” Shorts by Lance Bangs
Where the Wild Things Are: Combo Pack (Blu-ray Disc, DVD & Digital Copy) includes:
- Higglety Piggety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life
- HBO First Look: Where the Wild Things Are
- Series of “Where the Wild Things Are” Shorts by Lance Bangs

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mef says: Oct. 16, 2009

We went to this movie hoping it would be like the book. But it turned out to be a depressing disturbing and very different movie. I hated how they sterio typed about single moms. This is not a movie that I recommend taking kids to it is extremely odd.

mommytorres says: Oct. 17, 2009

I have 3 children; 12.5 y/o son, 11 y/o daughter, and a 7.5 y/o son. I couldn’t even guess at how many times we have read this book! When we saw the preview the first time for this movie, we knew that we were going to see it! I’ll admit, I didn’t read ANY reviews for this movie before going. Normally I read at least 2 reviews before taking my children to see a movie (or before renting/watching)...but just the fact it was a film based on a book we love so much…I skipped the reviews this time. Now, my children enjoyed this movie and on the way home they asked if we could buy it when it is released on DVD. That being said, my children don’t scare easily and have a good understanding of reality and make believe. Within the first 20 minutes of this movie, no less than 5 children were crying and mom or dad had to take them out to the hallway. I would NOT recommend this movie to a child younger than 5! If you are thinking about taking your young child (or child that scares easy) to see this movie, I strongly recommend going ALONE the first time around to see if you think your child could handle the darker parts of the film. The cost of ONE ticket will be worth it if it saves you from standing in the hallway for 60% of the movie and dealing with possible nightmares for a week. If you can’t or don’t want to pre-watch this film at the theater…I recommend waiting until it comes out on DVD so you can pre-watch it that way. If you rent it and they are scared, at least you have more control (power button, fast forward) and they can be in a comfortable environment.
For parents of older kids…this was a good movie! There were some parts that I worried about with my 7 y/o, but all 3 of my children really loved the movie (and it’s extremely rare for them to LOVE the same movie!).

TJ says: Oct. 18, 2009

I don’t know what kind of idiot would turn a great classic children’s book into such a ridiculous movie as this. We just left the theater and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The movie was NOT for children and to be honest even adults may struggle to get it. The family in front of us had two girls around 6 or 7 and they were crying the whole time. This director did a terrible job. You couldn’t pay me to see this movie again. Do not waste your money.

Cadillac says: Oct. 20, 2009

I agree.  This wasn’t a good movie in anyway.  I took my two children to see it.  They are eight and nine years old.  They didn’t like it either and we left the theater feeling down.  The characters were just a group of depressed dis-functional adolescence who could not get along and were subject to violent or cruel outburst.  I think the movie butchered the original story and I will be wary of anything this director produces in the future.

Mom of One says: Oct. 26, 2009

What a horrible first movie for my son! We got our money back, but I can’t erase what my son, (or I) saw. It was so dark. I’ve learned my lesson, review everything!

RosemaryG says: Nov. 01, 2009

This movie is about how children/Wild Things perceive events and how they express their feelings.  It is filmed from a child’s perspective.  The movie is full of extremely powerful, raw and tumultuous emotions, very much how young children react, with many abrupt mood swings.  The problem is that the Wild Things are enormous and toothy, so when they express themselves negatively, it’s scary, startling and unpredictable.  I went with a large group of children aged 6-10, and several of the younger children cried.  However, we did a lot of talking before and after the movie about feelings, what happens when we get in trouble, comparing the book to the movie, our favourite parts, etc. so they were well-prepared.  Also, after the movie they all rated it: none of them hated it, and most totally loved it.  A good review of the movie can be found in Maclean’s Magazine, Oct. 26 edition (sorry, it’s a Canadian mag).

Fred says: Dec. 30, 2009

DO NOT TAKE YOUNG CHILDREN TO SEE THIS MOVIE! It was absolutely horrid. I took my 8 yr old daughter; both of us being very eager to see this film that is being hailed as a ‘modern masterpiece’ and an ‘instant classic’. We sat there stunned as this wonderful book was totally gutted and left hanging to dry. Nothing like the book at all. All the monsters were constantly arguing and mad at each other, everybody seemed like they were manic-depressive, running around feeling guilty, depressed, angry, sad, etc. The entire spectrum of negative emotions was thoroughly explored in this movie. I felt manipulated while watching this steaming turd. It felt like some strange government psy-op, designed to bring out the worst in people.

There were hardly ANY happy moments throughout the entire movie; all the characters (both human and non-human) moped about sadly throughout the film; crying, wallowing in self-pity, anguish, depression, and self-inflicted psychological punishment. Several small children were crying in the theater because it was so sad and negative, I’m not kidding.

I am so angry at being deceived. The ads for this film portray it as a positive, magical journey, when it was just the opposite. All it is is a flaming exercise in negativity and self-indulgent wallowing. The movie is jam-packed with subliminal messages and suggestions, all designed to make you feel bad about yourself and others. This one will make you feel awful inside for several hours after you leave the theater. NO REDEEMING QUALITIES WHATSOEVER. Nothing but a big shameful sad-fest. I wish I could get my money back. No, I wish I could go back in time and choose never to see it.

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