Max (Records) is a mischievous, imaginative pre-teen with a dismissive big sister (Emmerichs) and an understanding mum (Keener). But a series of events get him thinking about the fragility of life, so he takes a flight of fantasy to a distant island populated by furry creatures who at first threaten to eat him but then adopt him as their king. Playful games ensue, as he leads them in the construction of a giant fortress. But even here, relationships become tricky to navigate.
Jonze creates a relaxed, natural atmosphere as seen through Max's childish perspective. This continues seamlessly from the real world across a vast sea to the island of the wild things, which of course represent his internal turmoil.
He immediately befriends the lively, sensitive Carol (voiced by Gandolfini), whose strained relationship with the more adventurous KW (Ambrose) begins to define Max's experience. There's also the busy bird-like Douglas (Cooper), the anxious goat-like Alexander (Dano), the acerbic Judith (O'Hara) and her patient sidekick Ira (Whitaker).
These creatures are a terrific combination of vibrant voice work, superb design (by the Jim Henson company), raw physical performance and remarkably subtle effects. Tiny details make them thoroughly real--small attitudes, flickers of emotion, physical traits like Carol's perpetually runny nose. And the film's full of boyish energy, as Max builds forts, initiates dirt-clod fights and wrestles raucously with his pals. But what makes this grab hold is the way it so sharply captures how tempers flare, feelings are hurt and relationships are strained.
Yes, Max is learning that he's not the only person on earth; he needs to think about other people and face the scary prospect of growing up. Jonze puts this together in such an unexpected way that it really catches our imagination. His filmmaking might be a bit startling at first, but this film deserves to become a perennial classic that challenges us all to find the fears inside of us and overcome them.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th October 2009
Box Office USA: $77.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $99.8M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Playtone, Wild Things Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 184 Rotten: 70
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Spike Jonze
Screenwriter: Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers
Starring: Max Records as Max, Catherine Keener as Connie, Lauren Ambrose as KW (voice), James Gandolfini as Carol (voice), Catherine O'Hara as Judith (voice), Forest Whitaker as Ira (voice), Mark Ruffalo as Connie's boyfriend, Pepita Emmerichs as Claire, Max Pfeiffer as Claire's Friend, Madeleine Greaves as Claire's Friend, Joshua Jay as Claire's Friend, Steve Mouzakis as Teacher, Paul Dano as Alexander (voice), Michael Berry Jr. as The Bull (voice), Chris Cooper as Douglas (voice), Ryan Corr as Claire's Friend
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...