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"Where the Wild Things Are" {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre:
Family
Release Date:
3/8/10
Special Features:

Featurettes, animated short

Review:

Based on the popular children's book by Maurice Sendak "Where the Wild Things Are" hardly seems like the type of book that would lend itself to a movie adaptation because the story is fairly slim to begin with (although quite imaginative) and because of the dark themes that stand front and center in the book. Sendak's book has been around since I was a kid and it has aged remarkably well from the artwork to the simple story told by the author. Max (Max Records) wishes to escape from the world; his widowed mother has taken up with a new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) that he can't stand. What's worse is that his older sister and his divorced mother (Catherine Keener) are having their own issues with Max. Max runs away from home setting sail for adventure but really having no destination. He arrives at an island occupied by giant furry beasts including Carol (James Gandolfini)a tempermental giant who sees a kindred spirit in Max. Soon Max finds himself leader of the island and that includes leading the other unusual creatures including Judith (Catherine O'Hara), Douglas (Chris Cooper), Ira (Paul Dano) , Bernard the Bull (Michael Berry Jr) and Alexandere (Forrest Whitaker). Max leads this unusual band of creatures through all sorts of adventures on the island. Clearly the creatures are representations of Max's own unresolved issues and feelings of abandonment in Spike Jonze latest film. ***

Although largely faithful to the original children's book (my son's favorite by the way), "Where the Wild Things Are" must expand on the meager story that provides the basis for the film. Novelist Dave Eggers who wrote the screenplay with Jonze creates a complex world that represents the inner turmoil of Max quite effectively and builds on the original story without betraying its roots (a very difficult thing to do). Interestingly, the film has had a mixed reception with some people complaining about the sluggish pacing and the lack of a strong plot while others have found the film charming. I can certainly understand the former group's complaints but side with the latter--you shouldn't come to "Where the Wild Things Are" expecting a larger-than-life fantasy like "Jumanji" and you'll just have to accept the languid pace of the film. Either way, audiences are going to find much to admire even if they don't care for the film itself. ---

Image & Sound:

I'm pretty wild about this transfer to Blu-ray. Featuring a colorful, rich, detailed and largely artifact free digital transfer, "Where the Wild Things Are" looks marvelous on home video. I didn't see the film in theaters so have nothing to compare it to but the rich colors and nicely rendered landscape make this a top notch transfer. The digital presentation brings out the best elements of a film with nice texture and light grain which add to the look of the film. ***

Audio is equally as rich although it takes a little while before we hear any sort of state-of-the-art use of the Lossless 5.1 audio mix. ---

Special Features:

We get the following featurettes: Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life a short animated film with Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker; HBO First Look a behind-the-scenes featurette that aired on the cable channel; Maurice and Spike and Max and Spike two short discussions with Sendak, Jonez and Eggers in the former and the actor playing Max and Jonez in the latter.The Records Family documents the exhaustive look for the lead of the film. Carter Burwell gives the composer a short to discuss his score and The Absurd Difficulty of Filming a Dog is exactly that--a document of the difficulty in film a brief sequence with a running dog. There are additional short featurettes including one where Spike amusingly puts vampire fans in his mouth to scare actor Record.

Final Words:

Although it received a mixed reception by critics and moviegoers "Where the Wild Things Are" manages to capture the spirit of Sendak's original book while also building a story around the original core that can sustain interest for two hours. While it isn't flawless the film works more often than not and is worth a least a rental if not a blind buy.

 

 
 
 
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