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3.3 out of 5 stars
Where the Wild Things Are
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459 of 529 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2010
It's a funny thing: adults have no problem loading films with whizzing bullets, raging flames and bellowing anger and slap a PG rating on it, but the moment the protagonist is a child they back off and claim "Whoa - this is too intense and scary!".

Nuts.

The claims that this film is a little intense are true - it IS intense because it's much more honest and real than any other films for children available in the last thirty years. By 'for children' I mean ALL children, any age.
Those who can't recall what it was like to be a kid aren't going to get it. They will be those who don't recall what it was like to be frightened, who don't recall how it feels to be second best to those they love most, who never had to carve out a slice of reality (or unreality) for themselves to make sense of the incomprehensible.

The world portrayed in the film is the real world where individuals live their own lives, sometimes at the expense of the feelings of those immediately around them, especially family. This may be the source of the films undeserved reputation as "scary" - while it is certainly no ghetto, "Max" the child protoganist lives in a realistically portrayed lower income neighborhood and his familial troubles are ones all too many children are accustomed to. He responds to these cares in ways that are well documented in child psychology. If this setting is considered by some as too scary for children then we have only ourselves to blame. This is how the real world is - it is not an Eighties family sit-com.

My nephew (5) and neice (9) are currently going through their parents divorce. Without spelling out the obvious overmuch, it was with a little trepidation that my Brother and I took them to see this yesterday. They're pretty resilient kids and they internalise more than they let on, acting out infrequently but we still weren't sure. They handled it fine and they "got it".

It seems to me modern American parents have bee brainwashed into believing that only a saccahrine sunny diet is suitable for youngsters - is this perhaps signs of guilt for the dangerous mess we've made of the world, that we must protect them at all turns, from life and living itself?

I've got news for you: the world has always been a scary place to kids, whether it was Indian attacks, Great Depressions, A-bombs or terrorists the world continues to turn and there's always a new bogey-man to shield our kids from. But to never let a hint of reality through is unhealthy.
For a hundred generations children have been told fairytales about death and loss and danger (sex and responsibility, too). Only relatively recently has the PC craze in American culture turned on this traditional method of exposing kids to reality. How many people in my generation (I'm 41) saw Gene Wilder in "The Little Prince" in the Seventies?

The film's lesson as it is given implies that immense things may crash around you, some of which may have been set in motion by yourself and you must cope as well as you can. Not everything is perfect and never will be; to expect such perfection is immature and unreasonable. And yet sincere contrition, empathy and love will help your world turn, turn it away from the dark scary things. Perhaps this also is a source of the negative impression of this film: the film accepts that the world is a dangerous, sometimes callous and frightening place. This is not a significant truism in the realm of modern juvenile entertainment where nine year olds easily defeat ninjas and aliens and are always smarter than those silly adults, yet it is difficult to deny. It's utilization by Spike Jonze is counter-revolutionary for the better.

A previous reviewer missed the point when they said that "Max" abandons his friends, the monsters, at the films end and what kind of lesson is that?
The monsters are not his friends - they are part of him, they are the facets of his own personality allowed to run amok.

When Max leaves the monster island at the end it is because he's a little wiser and more in control. He doesn't feel the need to act out and run wild.
He has seen firsthand that acts that are inherently violent, regardless of playful intent, have real and negative consequences, but he needed to see them in this fairytale place to understand his own responsibilty.
Only then is he ready to come home and be civil with the people who love him.

And yet, he loves the monsters and howls for them because they all are a part of him or of the systems that dictate the form of his life. They are his Id run wild and free as he would like to be, yet not wild with malice (destructive as they are) and thus worthy of mourning. They help save him from those self-destructive aspects in himself like the monster "Carol" because he isn't meant to live "Where the Wild Things Are". He grows more than most adults will in a lifetime by coming to terms with these violent emotional 'monsters'. He has seen them and he has seen them in himself. He will never be free of them but he knows what is important - his love for his family.

The dialogue in the film is fascinating and a key to the whole. It is kid talk. A mystery to adults, it has it's own logic and rules like "Faerie" or "Wonderland". One must navigate carefully to avoid catastrophe as Max discovers. I think my neice understood it better than I did, even if the metaphor escaped her. And so it is within ourselves if we might regard our own inner workings as "monsters" - the wrong inflection or phrasing, even when addressing ourselves, sets off whole chains of sometimes violent emotion.

In the end, my neice and nephew left the theatre understanding that with someone to love you and someone to love everything is alright - you may go away to confront your own demons and fears for a time but the ones you care for and that care for you will be there waiting, no matter what age you are.

And that makes the world and this film alright.

PS - A brief mention of the soundtrack is in order: it too is outstanding. It has what I can only describe as a 1970s 'feel' too it - it is a little wild, unpolished, honest, hairy, chirpy and sweet all at once.

The first thing I thought of on listening as the film progressed were the children's album by Marlo Thomas "Free To Be You and Me" and the end/closing titles song as a childrens version of Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" with all it's enthusiastic happy hoots and howls. It had me as choked up as I haven't been in a long time over a movie.
Thanks, Maurice, Karen, Spike et al.
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63 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2009
Format: DVD
I know others will go deep with analysis of this product, so I will just state what I think is the most important element. This show seems to have been edited by someone who is not only aware of this type of music, but also a fan. I cannot handle nonstop 2 second cuts to every camera view that I could care less about. The days of the frantic MTV style video presentation are OVER. This DVD is perfect in that aspect, when Steve is going for the "part", you WILL get to see it. And there is also just the right amount of effects and movement to keep it interesting & fresh. Any musician who actually cares about the music, should pay attention to "Where the Wild Things Are" and use this as a reference point for any Producer or Director who will be in charge of presenting an artists true vision in the arena of concert recording. For me: The Perfect Concert DVD HUNT4MUSIC
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61 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2010
Format: Blu-ray
Directed by the wonderfully inventive Spike Jonze, WTWTA follows young Max as he runs away from home following an argument with his mother and finds solace in a world of his own. He sets sail and washes up on an island inhabited by furry beings who take him in and crown him as their new king- unfortunately they have eaten every other king they have ever had. The boys relationship with the wild things is loving but often strained at times. He finds in them what he found back at home- love, jealousy, rivalry, acceptance...
Let me say that this film looks stunning. The voice acting is brilliant, the writing and directing are sublime and the pace of the movie is measured, but perfectly so. I think the reason that people are slamming this movie is because they are approaching it a kids film, which it isn't. It is an adult film about being a kid, and how hard it could be and how we would often find comfort in make-believe.
In my opinion, this is one of the most affecting films I have seen in years. Complex in so many ways- I am sure that this movie will reveal itself more as you revisit it. Don't go in expecting a fast-paced kiddies adventure movie, but instead look at the previous work of the brilliant Spike Jonze to see how he has grown as a film-maker and yet lost nothing of what made him so great in the firt place. This is a grown-up, sad, sometimes unsettling look at childhood and imagination, and I for one absolutely loved it.
The blu-ray transfer is terrific also. The short film Higgedy Piggedy Pop which is included in the extras is wonderful, and I am looking forward to delving into some of the other extras included on this disc.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2009
Format: DVD
You can bet that if Vai's putting out a DVD, you're going to get your money's worth and then some. The musicianship is as high as can be expected, and if you're even somewhat familiar with Vai's work, this is no surprise.

What I enjoyed the most were the production values (lighting and DVD specific effects), the little touches of bizarre humor that he's known for (picking with his guitar tech, showing the scat lyrics to Firewall, shamelessly plugging himself in Tender Surrender), and the way he shared the stage with the other musicians. That last aspect impressed me the most, actually. He knows he can play, so he had no problem letting the band step up. Instead of "Dave's Party Piece", he actually got to play one of his own songs from his album (albeit, and abbreviated version). Also, the Lydian jam with Anne Marie and Alex on "The Crying Machine" was just magical.

Like I said, if you're a Vai fan, you're gonna get this DVD, so I'm basically writing this for the casual listener/musician. If you're interested in something different from the cookie cutter commercial garbage that out there. Give this a listen, you might learn something!
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
There is no sex, some violence, no cursing except for "hell". However, it's refreshing and in it's own way very original. I never liked the book, but I'm gradually growing attached to this film. I don't have kids, however I have worked with children, and this is not a film I'd show in a classroom. It has an adult feel, and the overal presentation of an angry boy finding himself through these "things"(these characters are extensions of his anger, self doubt, ect). Adults and teenagers would like this film. Especially the "not sure what I am/where I belong" message that this movie caries. Also, it doesn't come across as the typical Holywood trash, which, some people will find hard to swallow. Instead, the over all flavor has an independant film taste to it...can't fully explain what I mean. Anyway, thanks for reading.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Format: DVD
As late as I am coming in to review this and seeing the wide range of reviews I am not surprised at the mix of reviews but I am at how many 1 star reviews in proportion to 5 star reviews there have been. This film does not deserve that.

First off this film is not going to appeal to nearly everyone. It was not made as a summer blockbluster popcorn eye-candy trifle. It is closest in spirit to an indie, even art-house drama. I found myself asking before I saw the movie, "How do you make a movie out of Sendak's beloved classic?" This is just one answer. Directed by Spike Jonze this is a lyrical movie full of pathos and understated emotional reflections. The main character, Max, is a sad boy in many ways; the movie captures a melancholy, confused state of a pre-adolescent boy as the world grows up around him while he "stands still" in the midst of sometimes new and conquering emotions. Change is not his friend. After a fit of rage wherein he becomes the not-lovable "wild thing" and bites his mother he runs away and ends up in the fantastic imagining of Sendak's Wild Things world. The Wild Things are aspects of Max's personality and emotions as well as his mother's and sister's personality and emotions (as far as I can see it). The Wild Thing that he is immediately drawn to (the beastie on the cover) is the personification of his anger, and this is the Wild Thing that he ultimately has to accept even while he breaks away from the Wild Things and leave them behind. The Wild Things (like real emotions) are wild and often unruly things. Kudos to Jonze and the other creators in making a thoughtful tale about emotions out of this beloved fairy tale (itself about emotions--go on, look at that book again).

Hopefully, many people will give this movie a second chance. This movie can be for the (older) kids, though it is made just as much if not more for the adults.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2010
Format: DVD
I've always known the simple, strange yet touching book this movie was based upon, and I also knew the adaption was somewhat poorly received here on Amazon. But I was still curious to see how the director translated the critically acclaimed book into a live-action movie, so I went ahead and rented it.

And really, as I watched, I realized all the negative criticism it got was wrong. I was actually fairly pleased by the movie, and genuinely like it; but there are things that... well, let me put it like this: I won't bet buying this movie.

You probably already know the basic plot and such, so I'll just get right to my point. As the director said, it is truly not a movie created for children, it's about childhood, so it's certainly not playful and light like you might expect. The anger of the main character, Max, hurts all those around him and even worse, himself. This is an interesting idea to pin a story upon: anger in siblings is part of my life, as my younger brother is an absolute monster when he wants to be. You could say I connected to the movie in that way.

But it startled me by how dark it was. The darkness was only slightly subtle, and grew even more with the plot. As soon as we run with Max into the island and see all the large, odd-looking monsters, you get this feeling. At first, the monsters are friendly enough, albeit violent hints towards their muddled hearts. But the whole time, you get a creepy gut-feeling; the whole movie is strange, and not beautiful strange like some movies. No, it was an uncomfortable strange, and all the monsters just made that uncomfortable, weird feeling grow.

Their dark, corrupt personalities shine towards the end of the movie, when Max's reign as their "king" becomes broken and dangerous. Yes, a monster's arm gets ripped off, and it's less brutal than you think, but shocking and a little frightening all the same, no matter how old you are. So yeah, that's just one of the things that pretty much makes this an adult movie, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that it makes it all kinda confusing; I mean, it certainly looks like a kid's movie, what with the big, furry creatures and a kid in the starring role.

But despite the startling darkness, there's nothing I can criticize. The plot-line is pretty beautiful and crisp, putting aside my aforementioned thoughts. There's magic within the movie, and some crazy things like a huge, walking dog on the desert. But I think the over-all message is what counts, and makes this movie a strange beauty: things won't last forever, so cherish them while you have them. The sun is one topic used to paint this message, and I saw it represented in the anger between Max and his mother, which fades when he realizes how much he loves her.

I can't say the acting was bad. The CG/puppetry (those must have been some big puppets or suits, whatever they used) in the movie is perfectly fine. They got lucky on this movie, because since they're creatures nobody's seen, they don't have to be perfect CG like dragons in the Harry franchise. So they can look like puppets sometimes, and you accept it as the strange magic of the island. The voices were crisp and sounded a little too normal to come from huge, strange creatures' mouths, but whatever. And their howling that matches any dog's howl was also weird... but acceptable.

I think the little star of the whole film held up his part just fine. He brought a struggling, lonely character across the screen that I rather hated at the beginning (the first scene between the dog and boy with a fork startled me; after all, if he had stabbed the dog... well, let's just say this review would have never been made) became a mature young man that I understood. I thought his character matured a little too much for a boy so wild at the beginning, but hey, it's something I can overlook.

So it was a fine movie. Not four-star... certainly not five star... but three star. In the middle. Worth one or two watches; after all, it's better than wasting time calling it stupid.
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116 of 159 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2010
Format: DVD
Perhaps I didn't read far enough in the other reviews...but it seemed pretty much like a bunch of adults discussing the deep psychological imagery, etc., but not how the movie makes a kid feel. A kid, I said, not an over-intellectualizing adult.

So I'm going to tell you how my twin, almost 7 year old, very well-behaved, socially well-liked, intelligent and yet, quite tenderhearted girls responded. I'm grateful that I watched it with them, I'll tell you that. I did have to comfort them a little because Max was having a pretty rough day for a little guy, and it made them feel very bad for him. You have to put up with quite a bit of grimness before you get to the fanciful part in this movie, and even that isn't ever really what I'd call stress-free...

One of my girls doesn't feel well today, so it doesn't surprise me that she chose to go to her room mid-way thru it and watch a Barbie movie. You don't feel well, and you prefer comforting things, I can understand that. The other stayed for the whole thing and when I asked her what she thought at the end, she said it was "okay." I did notice her tearing up when Max was floating away and he and the monsters were howling at each other across the water. That was a pretty nice, sentimental ending. Keep in mind, though, that just before that, on the beach, one of the monsters admitted that Max was the only king they ever had that they didn't EAT... and I think the implications of that are a little gothic, but I'm pretty sure my kids missed the significance of that little reference. Probably best.

There are those who claim that exposing children to "actual life-like stress" in a movie is good for them, instead of the perpetually sunny characters in say, a Disney movie. Well, you were all children once, and doubtlessly, you remember thinking that most things that were supposed to be "good for you", just weren't very pleasant? I know I do. I'm not sure either girl really enjoyed the movie, Which is why they wanted to watch a movie in the first place, to be entertained. It's a movie - not therapy, not medicine.

The fact is, real life is only too happy to shove hardship and ugliness and fear their direction, I don't need to spoon-feed it to them as entertainment. I don't think of childhood as a weakness or being too immature somehow; a happy child has a good foundation to grow into a strong adult. Childhood is a time to build up their immunity to negativity, fill up the tank of their self-esteem, and show them the sweet parts of life that we hope will become their goals as adults. I'm going to let mine enjoy childhood and innocence, because that is the stage they are supposed to be at right now, and I know adulthood and maturity will come with time. I won't block it, but I reserve the right to cushion it a little bit and let them digest it in smaller, more manageable pieces at a time.

Now, you might think that a boy would appreciate this movie a little more, perhaps...and you may be right. Max is "all boy" and them some, quite a handful. ADHD anyone? Clearly, Mom has a lot on her mind, being a single mom with at least two children, one appears to be a teenager, she's not doing well at work and also may be seeing a new man, which is guaranteed to cause issues with a boy Max's age. Max is a surprisingly sensitive boy at times, even a bit melancholic for his age and obviously has some aggression issues. The first part, overall, has a pervasive feeling of depression.

As others have mentioned, one difference in the movie vs. the book was that Max ran away and hid instead of having him go to the Wild Place from his bedroom, like the book. They could just have easily have done it the other way...but I understood the imagery of running away from what you think is how other people treat you, and discovering that you can't escape yourself or your problems by doing that, because it comes with you... Where ever you go, there you are.

The boy matures a bit during the movie, mostly because the monsters, for the most part, seem slightly less mature, emotionally, than he is. One of the best ways I've discovered as a teaching assistant to control children who misbehave is to give them enough responsibility to keep them too busy to continue with the undesirable habits, like having a person who always talks in line be in charge of watching to make sure nobody talks in line. Of course, the monsters are supposed to be aspects of himself that he is trying to control and integrate peacefully into himself as a whole person, but kids will watch it on the obvious level...and to them, the monsters aren't Max.

Is it a good movie? Yes, if you are an adult appreciating it for it's cinematic or psychological merits. If you are a kid... well, I work with third graders, 8 or 9 years old, and I think they'd be okay with it more than my girls who are only nearing 7 years old, and are in first grade. This falls in that gray area between PG and PG-13, I can only call it... PG-9? I do wish that with all the children's movies which have come out lately that have incorporated some really kind of adult themes, that there was some way of telling which ones to be more careful about. Notice, I didn't say, avoid, or censor...just be careful, take into account how your child may react. Some children may have a more sympathetic reaction than others. I guess it just comes down to my responsibility as a parent possibly being to watch the movie before I allow them to, just so I know what to look for. Until they're a few years older, I'll just have to do that.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2010
Format: DVD
I wasn't sure what to expect with this movie. I loved the book and knew this was going to be quite different. I watched it with my son, and it didn't take us long to figure out that the "wild things" were the things Max was dealing with. Feeling alone, ignored, angry, out of control, and unlovable. I think all children feel these things, no matter what their home life is like. It was a great opportunity for me to ask him questions and for him to be open about his feelings. This movie really is for children, but I wouldn't say little kids. Probably third grade and up. I loved it and my son totally got it and enjoyed it too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
This movie doesn't seem to have been made for children. It is based on the eponymous book, but appears to emphasize themes one would normally associate with adults such as being lost emotionally, not knowing what to do with one's life, trying to find one's place in the world. I haven't read the book in a long time, but from what I remember it is a story about a boy using his imagination in a productive way after getting into trouble. Perhaps that's too simplistic a reading, but when I was seven or eight (or however old I was when I last read it) I wasn't pondering where my life was going or existential meanings of life.
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