Here at the Lowell Film Collaborative, we love film, but at the same time, we aren’t quite obsessive enough to secure super sneak previews to view films before the general public – except, of course, for film festivals. However, when we were given the opportunity this past weekend to view a super super SUPER sneak preview of Where the Wild Things Are (and in IMAX, no less!), rest assured we seized it with a quickness.
Courtesy of a friend who’s employed at a nearby IMAX theater, we viewed the film completely alone save for the two of us. And we’re here to report that, for those of you who’ve been awaiting this adaptation with baited breath, this film is everything you want it to be…and more. From Max’s monsters, who are so lifelike that one can’t tell where the puppet ends and the CGI begins, to Max himself, brilliantly portrayed by Max Records (coincidence???), especially considering he’s sharing the screen with puppets for 80% of the film, WtWTA is dark, wondrous, and beautifully photographed by director Spike Jonze, who was handpicked by the book’s author, Maurice Sendak.
Adapting the story from a mere 11 lines of copy in the original children’s book, Jonze and co-screenwriter Dave Eggers complicate the monsters with adult emotions and conflicts both internal and external, yet still throw in enough fun, mindless things like an epic dirt clod war and the building of a fortress to maintain a child-like wonder that is sure to satisfy any adults still holding onto their adolescent roots. Most effective to me personally was the perfectly executed soundtrack courtesy of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s vocalist Karen O and Carter Burwell. Without the film, much of the soundtrack may sound pretentious and over the top with its whoops, yells and children’s choir, but paired with Jonze’s imagery, the two go hand-in-hand perfectly. Voices of the monsters include a surprisingly warm, wise-guy-less James Gandolfini as Carol, smartass Catherine O’Hara as Judith, and the always level-headed Chris Cooper as Douglas.
WtWTA may suffer from one fact – it’s based on a children’s book, it’s a story about a kid, and it’s populated primarily by puppets playing the parts of characters from that kid’s imagination, which means it will be assumed by most that it’s a children’s movie. But the reality is, this is not a children’s movie. It is very much an adult film, and kudos to Jonze for not giving in to what most people would expect this film to be. The most moving part of the film isn’t what’s shown to us directly, but what’s implied and that we discover on our own by watching Max and his story with the monsters unfold – obviously not something a child will be able to comprehend.
Our only hope is that this film finds the right audience, because there is something magical going on here, and we highly recommend it to everyone looking to recapture a bit of their youth. Where the Wild Things Are opens this Friday, October 16.