Friday, August 13, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

Directed by Spike Jonze.
2009. Rated PG, 101 minutes.
Max Records
James Gandolfini
Catherine Keener
Paul Dano
Catherine O’Hara
Pepita Emmerichs
Mark Ruffalo
Vincent Crowley
Sonny Gerasimowicz
Nick Farnell

Tiny Max (Records) is going through a crisis. His big sister hardly pays him any mind and since his single-but-dating mom works all day, he’s left mostly to his own devices. One night, after throwing a particularly dramatic temper tantrum he runs away from home, goes down to the nearby coast, hops in a boat, crosses a raging sea and winds up on a strange island filled with bickering and depressed creatures that look like out-of-work mascots. When he figures out they want to eat him, he makes up some cockamamie reason why they shouldn’t. He tells them he’s got special powers and promises to make all the sadness in their lives disappear. Of course, the mascots do the only logical thing they can and make him king.

I’ve given you the first thirty minutes. For the next hour plus, we watch Max run, jump and play with the mascots, trying his darndest to keep his promise about ending sadness. Obviously, the task seems impossible. It is especially so when dealing with such a morose group. Conflict raises its head time and again. Most of the time, it involves the easily upset and heartbroken Carol. Carol is voiced wonderfully by James Gandolfini. Yes, Carol is a he. Just a little fyi: Tony Soprano is not actually in the suit. That would be Vincent Crowley. Anyhoo, we come to see Carol largely as this island’s version of Max. Between Carol, Max and the rest of the group, life lessons and dirt clods are bandied about.

It’s an odd watch that ignores any plausible real-world consequences of his actions, including just how much time actually passes. Then again, the movie never definitively says that Max went to a real place. That much is up to you. Whether or not the island is real, the movie focuses solely on the wonderland this particular Alice has fallen into and the therapy it provides. I can see some kids being totally enthralled by watching another child just play while also empathizing with the mascots. I can see others bored to tears because once you get past how these creatures look, it lacks the fizz and pop of most movies aimed at the pre-teen audience. The personalities of our friends are droll, at best. The movie seems to drag on and on…and on. There’s also not much in the way of special fx and though there is humor, it’s not made up of pratfalls and fart jokes.

The lack of crassness may be a welcome reprieve for parents. However, the same sentiments apply. You’ll have to think your way through this one. Normally, that’s not a problem for me, but here it was a chore. Unfortunately, big action scenes where our hero battles the bad guy and hordes of his minions never come. Therefore, if you don’t mind the slowness of the proceedings then this will be a nice treat for you. If you’re easily bored, don’t bother.

The Opposite View: Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

What the Internet Says: 7.2/10 on (8/11/10), 73% on, 71/100 on

MY SCORE: 5.5/10

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