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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Life + Arts

Film embraces poignant, hurtful rumpus

Part adventure story, part drama and part psycho-thriller, Where the Wild Things Are has more depth than its 10-sentence picture book counterpart.

Like the book, the movie focuses on the imaginary escape of a lonely 6-year-old named Max.

At home, Max feels abandoned by a teenage sister who has outgrown his childish antics. She merely watches as her rambunctious friends push him to tears by destroying his snow fort, and then walks away with them without a word of sympathy.’

Even Max’s worn-out mother cares more about finishing business reports and dating than paying attention to his lava fort.’

After donning a scraggly wolf costume and biting his mother on the arm, Max sails away to the land of the wild things, a clan of childish monsters who crown him king after he promises to ‘keep the sadness out.’

Max discovers the difficulties of harnessing a family of creatures who can’t help biting, clawing and tearing off each other’s limbs.’

Audiences will be able to relate to the sympathetic characters who hurt each other despite their best efforts, but at times the script and execution are far too self-consciously metaphorical to be taken seriously.’

This is painfully obvious in contrived lines such as, ‘That thing-I can do that thing to you, but you’re not supposed to do that thing back to me.”

A little more sincerity would have made this film a true classic. However, the visual aspects of the movie made the story quite enjoyable.’

Where the Wild Things Are will impress viewers with its elaborate, dynamic costumes, which bring the wild things to life through a combination of computer imagery vand puppetry.’

The land of the wild things is geographically mismatched, but stunningly beautiful.’

Max rules a kingdom where he can walk from the cliffs of Ireland into a deep forest, with a side trip through the Sahara Desert. ‘

More of the film’s movie magic comes from the stunts. Certain scenes give the movie the feel of an action film, with wild things running, jumping several feet in the air, dog piling, hurling dirt clods at each other and falling.

Audiences may be concerned for the actors’ safety when several 10-foot tall wild things pile on a scrawny 12-year-old with explosive thumps and booms.

While it is a relief to know that no animals were hurt during filming, it’s worth noting that the movie lacked the same disclaimer for the actors and stunt doubles.

At times, the film takes on a psycho-thriller feel. Films in this genre are usually about characters with schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, or are about someone so completely insane that it is difficult to categorize their condition. This film, however, focuses on the mood swings of a lonely little boy.’

From a genuinely chilling opening scene where he chases a terrified dog around the house with a fork to an explosive dinner table tantrum, Max is clearly ‘out of control,’ a fact made obvious after his mother screams at him for landing a misguided bite on her arm.’

Max does struggle to control a serious anger problem that viewers experience through a documentary-like point of view that follows his romps with a wild, shaky camera. ‘

This film contains an underlying commentary on dealing with anger and the lingering damage caused by self-absorption.’

While the film is rated PG for a one-time use of profanity, it will engage families and viewers of all ages.’

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