When I was much younger, Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are was a story I held so dear to my heart and I always wanted my parents reading it to me before heading into bed. In 2009, the time finally came when I was seeing something that defined my childhood coming to the screen. It’s hard enough translating a beloved piece of what helped me growing up onto the big screen in this manner but somehow, what Spike Jonze managed to provide had triumphed and brought back so many fond memories for myself. For not only was it those memories that came back to me which struck me in awe at Where the Wild Things Are, but Spike Jonze’s incredible understanding of childhood that only strike for more imagination.
Maurice Sendak’s original story captures a perfect sense of how children cope with the loneliness and gloominess that fills up their thoughts upon a time of punishment. On the other hand, there’s a greater depth that Spike Jonze presents in his own take on Where the Wild Things Are that rings back to the challenges that growing up had presented in one’s life. We are told the story of Max, a lonely nine-year-old boy who never seemed to exist within his own family or amongst his peers, yet he still found a manner to cope with this loneliness through his ever-expanding imagination. After having been abandoned again by his mother for her boyfriend rather than spending time inside of a fort Max made, he throws a fit of rage and runs away in fear, to find the island of the Wild Things, where Max is declared a king.
It is stunning to watch how Spike Jonze plays upon the concept of imagination and what it inspires out of children, and within Where the Wild Things Are the greatest joy to which it presents is not only in how it shows the viewers how imagination has helped in defining oneself as what they are, but also within the challenges of growing up. Younger audiences can find themselves immersed with Jonze’s playfulness to show where Max’s wild imagination can take themselves but at the same time, an older generation of viewers can watch Jonze revel in this glory and it will strike back many fond memories of one’s youth and its power only becomes all the more prevalent from there onward – for it shows how our tendencies to revel within what made us so happy have helped us through harsh times.
With the basics of Maurice Sendak’s story put into play, the nature to which Spike Jonze is employing under his own eyes is the perfect way to suit Sendak’s creation. Jonze, who had shown prior through his work with Charlie Kaufman in Being John Malkovich and Adaptation that his vision is something of its own kind, allows for something thoughtful to come about within how he explores the universe which he created in order to capture the words of Sendak’s story into his own film. Jonze perfectly captures the whole concept of imagination from the manner to which he explores the world of the Wild Things, and from their brilliant designs it is already all the more admirable for how they resemble childlike illustrations, adding more of an authentic feel to how it grasps onto imagination. Together with how their designs so perfectly fit into this atmosphere, what we also have are voice performances that emulate such love all around, whether they range from the late James Gandolfini to Lauren Ambrose – immersing oneself into Spike Jonze’s taste for creativity.
If something, however, stood out amidst the gorgeous imagery and wonderful set pieces as they come into play, it would have to be the performance of young Max Records and how it creates a loving atmosphere to shroud itself in. It soon becomes clear that Max is not only a simple misunderstood kid wearing a wolf costume, but he can be any misfit in society just trying to search for a place feeling in order to feel belonged. It is right from said aspect in which Where the Wild Things Are‘s portrait of said quest only is made all the more beautiful and resonant with an older generation. Adding more to this wonder comes Karen O and Carter Burwell’s soundtrack, which so lovingly embraces a childlike tone only adding more to the playfulness Where the Wild Things Are creates for it holds together a logic that weaves much like that of a child’s imagination to keep flowing – and under Jonze’s direction together with Records’s dedicated performance, everything fits so perfectly in place.
Where the Wild Things Are is proof that children’s stories can find themselves becoming all the more profound on the inside with an adult generation. This is not only a film that children will find themselves enjoying on the count that it presents and embraces the world it creates with such love, but it also reminds us of the happy moments which we have ever had in our lifetime – and at that, it is all the more beautiful. Where the Wild Things Are rings back to the happiness of our experiences on earth and goes to show us how they will forever define us as we grow older. It is not only a film for children, but it is not about children either, it is about the search for a place in society when we don’t fit in – but maybe in some way none of us do. All around, Where the Wild Things Are truly is one of the most beautiful films of the century, and one of the best films ever to be made about the experience of growing up. Only Spike Jonze could ever have brought it to us in the manner that it did, and it makes me wish I was younger again, or at least can relive those moments.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Screenplay by Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, from the book by Maurice Sendak
Produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Maurice Sendak, John Carls, Vincent Landay
Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano, Michael Berry Jr.
Release Year: 2009
Running Time: 104 minutes