Where the Wild Things Are (2009) Movie Review

Let’s get one thing straight – “Where the Wild Things Are” is not a kids movie. The trailers may have led you to believe this, but trust me – it’s not. I guarantee loads of kids will watch it, but i also guarantee loads of them won’t enjoy it. It’s too concerned with a view of childhood that can only be reached through hindsight – something which the kids watching this clearly don’t have. It’s also fucking scary. I mean if this was an R-Rated film, I’d have shat my pants – giant ugly monsters with huge mouths threatening to eat children and fighting each other all the time and constantly screaming and roaring would make for a pretty frightening horror film. Wait, sorry, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happens here. Oh well, somehow it’s landed itself a PG rating – even though it’s one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen.

So yeah, it’s not for kids. But it’s not for adults either. I can’t imagine my Dad wanting to watch this – it’s about giant Teddy Bears making friends with a boy called Max who’s wearing a rabbit costume. To many people, the talk of defeating viking kingdoms with double cracker invincible power shields will be enough – this isn’t an Owl City song. So who is going to enjoy this? Well, people that like Owl City will. I did. People that like giant Teddy Bears will. Accountants probably won’t. You might. Anyone with a sense of mourning for the loss of their childhood probably will. Giant Teddy Bears will. Fans of Spike Jonze possibly will. People that grew up with the book will. Basically, I hope you get the idea – there’s not really a clear-cut audience for this kind of film.  Still, this non-denominational audience was evidently big enough for the film to do well, so there were clearly a lot of people that liked this film – though many of them could quite possibly have been kids who wanted to see the film about giant Teddies please Mummy I really like Care Bears this is the same thing right please Mum, MUUUM, I really want to see it, MUUUUMMM, I won’t spread peanut butter on the sofa again, I REALLY want to see it please, I’ll be good, we don’t even have to go to McDonald’s after but if we do can I still get a Happy Meal I won’t eat with my mouth open pleeease! PLEEEEEAAAAARRRSSEEE!!!

Right, let’s focus on the actual film now. Well, it’s what I’d describe as a really nice movie. Really NICE. It’s travels along very smoothly and at the end you feel really nice. Saying that, there are a few problems with it; firstly, Max is a bit of knob-head. As a central character, he’s not the most relatable of leading men. Firstly, he cries when his sister’s friends destroy his igloo, which is fair enough, but they only do it because HE started chucking snowballs at them for no reason. If someone started chucking snowballs at me for no reason, I’d destroy their fucking igloo. Next, he bites his Mum and embarrasses her in front of her boyfriend – not exactly top-tier behaviour. So yeah, he’s a bit of weirdo – it’s clearly on purpose, but for those that didn’t bite their Mums when they were younger, it’ll be a bit hard to relate to.  Also, any kid that hangs out with giant imaginary Teddy Bears in the woods has got to have some problems.  I mean when I was kid, I met my imaginary friends down the race track, and they were snakes who fought each other with machine guns – not wimpy bears crying all the time.

Next up are the Wild Things themselves.  They aren’t what I expected at all, they’re selfish, stroppy, mood-swinging, violent, and particularly gullible – I understand they’re supposed to represent different parts of Max’s childhood mindsets, but the last time I ran into the woods and declared to a load of bears that I was their king, they didn’t fucking believe me.  Overall, they’re not the most likable bunch – which will be the biggest reason why kids won’t relate to them.  Personally, I found it all rather interesting and refreshing, but for someone looking for a straightforward family film, you’re not going to find it here.  Nothing is ever clear-cut or calm – there’s always this underlying sense of dread which permeates even the happiest scenes, and it’s this foreboding that’ll stop many children from relaxing and enjoying the ride.

But in amongst all the strangeness and threat, a wealth of good stuff can be found.  Firstly, Max Records as ‘Max’ is fantastic, particularly when considering he has the weight of the whole film on his shoulders.  Normally, child actors get on my wick, particularly when they don’t act like children – Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning – but Records doesn’t try to behave like an adult, and thus is entirely believable as a child.  He also has to run the gamut of a great deal of different emotions; happiness, sadness, ‘I hope those giant bears don’t eat me’, remorse, fear, empathy, ‘I’m going to bite my Mum now, watch this’ etc., and he displays these difficult feelings entirely convincingly – I look forward to seeing him in future films.

The rest of the ‘Wild Things’ cast (both voices and suit actors) work together to create an impressive array of creatures that grow more and more familiar and realistic as the film progresses, and by the end, have you completely and utterly encased in their fantasy world.  To illicit that kind of emotion from towering fuzzy monsters is surely a mammoth task – but it’s achieved on all fronts.  Which brings me to Spike Jonze – it’s his baby – who brings a personal quirkiness and deft individualism that provides the glue that sticks it all together and makes it work.  Without Jonze, the film would have been entirely different, and it’s hard to think of anyone who could have done a better job – his previous works speak for themselves and are relevant precursors to a film as odd as this, so it’s no surprise that he hit the nail on the head with this one.

So overall, although “Where the Wild Things Are” is not a kids film, nor is it a film for serious adults, I’d still recommend it.  It lives up to its title as it’s certainly a wild ride, but it’s got the emotion to boot, and anyone not smiling at the end has been watching the wrong film.  It’s most definitely worth a watch for anyone in touch with their inner child, or just anyone who likes watching huge furry monsters punch holes through trees – although it might be extremely disappointing for those wanting to see Neve Campbell and Denise Richards pour wine over each others tits.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is available on Region 2 DVD from Warmer Brothers Entertainment now.

Spike Jonze (director) / Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers (screenplay)
CAST: Max Records … Max
Pepita Emmerichs … Claire
Max Pfeifer … Claire’s Friend
Madeleine Greaves … Claire’s Friend
Joshua Jay … Claire’s Friend
Ryan Corr … Claire’s Friend
Catherine Keener … Connie – Mom

Buy Where the Wild Things Are on DVD