Where The Wild Things Are (2009, Spike Jonze) – Review

Despite the generally lukewarm reception this film has received, i decided to give it a try after seeing a couple of short clips, and i’m glad i did.

Based on Maurice Sendaks hugely popular childrens story, Where The Wild Things Are follows Max, a frustrated young boy craving attention from his family.   As his feelings of lonliness grow his wild imagination takes over and transports him to another land, where the wild things are.

I absolutely loved the film from start to finish.  It truly captures the brilliant imagination that all young boys have, yet with a downbeat melancholy atmosphere.  At the risk of sounding like a muppet, when i was watching it i felt like an 8 year old again.  The monsters were fantastically done, no CGI here (apart from some of the facial expressions), just old-school men in animal suits running about.  It may not sound brilliant, but it is.  The physical presence and strength of the monsters comes across in a way that just isn’t possible with CGI.  As a result, the actiony fighting scenes involving the monsters are a blast, you’re seeing genuine impacts and falls, and it comes across.  I found it hugely refreshing, as personally i’ve always had difficulty with CGI created characters. Fans of ‘Labyrinth’ will certainly enjoy this aspect, i did find myself thinking of Ludo on a couple of occasions.

The film is beautiful to look at with some stunning images and Karen O deserves a special mention for the soundtrack, which  compliments these images and the emotions on display brilliantly, whilst producing a definite indie feel.  Max Records performs well as Max  and is ably supported by the ever reliable Catherine Keener as his Mum.

I did have a couple of problems with the film.  At times it was a little overly melodramatic, and contrived.  The ‘i’m a troubled kid looking for attention’ card was overplayed in the first 4ominutes, and was dealt with slightly heavy handedly.  This  could have been tackled more subtely, then again it is a film for children…..just.  The monsters aren’t larger than life loveable characters, and their world is at times a scary, threatening place.  The hugely entertaining dirt fight and fort building scenes however, are great childrens entertainment and i’m sure the family theme will resonate with kids.  Jonze has found a good balance between dark atmosphere and an entertaining lively children’s film.

The final scene with Max running home to his mum was executed nicely.  No words are spoken as his Mum hugs him and later  falls asleep watching him.  The effect is far more powerful than an exchange of over emotional  ‘i love you’ and ‘i missed you’.  It was restrained, short and concluded the film perfectly.  The film itself feels quite restrained, with no substantial plot development, or newly created artificial story on top of the original source material.  It’s just Max’s gradual realisation that his childish actions won’t cut it anymore, that his imaginative mind can no longer block out problems in the real world and that it’s time for him to grow up a little.

I laughed out loud, I held back tears and I don’t recall ever smiling so much during any film i’ve seen before.

4 star




  1. Terrific review, I’m glad you agreed with me! I loved feeling like a child again, and this movie gave me that fluttery, whimsical spirit once again. I also thought some parts were too melodramatic, and even I began to shudder at the drama. That wasn’t exactly fit for its demographic, in my opinion. But everything else made this movie completely nostalgic, and second only to Driving Miss Daisy, this is my go-to movie when my day hasn’t been too great.

  2. thanks, that was the first film review I ever wrote and the first post on the blog, so well found! I haven’t seen it since but i added it to my online rental list a few days ago and can’t wait to watch it again.

  3. Ha! I was just looking on your A-Z list, and I saw that and wondered what others thought of it. As a film, it really isn’t terrific, but as a portal back to childhood, it’s perfect.

  4. Brilliant review. Really enjoyed this film and completely agree with what you say about Labyrinth and Ludo. It’s a film that really does take you back to childhood but also has depth and oodles of feeling.

    Love Karen O too – have you heard the song she did recently for Frankenweenie? Strange Love, I think it’s called – very good.

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