Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nog Joins the Wild Rumpus!

You can tell that Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is a labor of love, a bid to make a lasting work of art that reflects the childhood mind. And it may completely work for some. For me, only some of it works. I love the opening sequences (even with their kinetic hand-held camerawork, which can sometimes grow quickly annoying): they seem to perfectly capture the ever-shifting moods of childhood, how one can go from pure elation to inconsolable sadness in a split second. Young Max Records is excellent as Max: you can feel real loneliness and anger there. However, when the film shifts to the island of the wild things, I found myself only sporadically engaged. The soundtrack by Karen O (and the Kids!) works very well for scenes of Max and his new giant muppet friends rumpusing about the land, but I'm less sure about Eggers' screenplay, which threatens to push a little hard at some points in showing us how the various problems of this world parallel those of Max's "real" life. And the muppets...I suppose they look pretty fantastic and probably adhere fairly closely to Sendak's original drawings (Dr. X would know, if he'd read!), but I'm not entirely convinced these are the kinds of fuzzy creatures a boy like this particular Max would conjure up (given his propensity for tall tales involving vampires who lose their teeth). But when one's attention starts to flag, Jonze delivers us back into Max's life at home with a lovely wordless coda where his mother (Catherine Keener) greets him by pushing back the head of his wolf suit, suggesting (I guess?) a new (more human?) connection between the two of them that is both touching and sad, since it also suggests that the world of imagination will probably soon dwindle as Max must begin to take on a more adult worldview. Very much worth seeing, sure, but I wish I had left more convinced that I'd seen a new classic.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah -- there's something not quite working in Max's fantasy. . .somehow I was able to forgive and forget and just sort of let it play. That said, you're right: it's not quite the triumph maybe it could have been, though some of it is splendid, and frankly as a whole it's at least _relatively_ extraordinary. And I'm so grateful that these muppets are not only not CGI, but the skins were made by Jim Henson's company! Well, okay, the faces were digitally rendered, and obviously there's some CGI work throughout, BUT: people in costumes > pixels. Katherine Keener is pure gold. I love that woman. And I loved Catherine O'Hara as Judith. David Denby's review also criticized Eggers and his neurotic bunch of wild things. . .he didn't quite get it. I'm not sure I do either, but again: I just kind of excused whatever didn't work. Not a Great film, but a dazzling one. (And, yes, the real Max as Max is fantastic.) (And, yes, great soundtrack.)