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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Spike Jonze
Cast:
Max Records, Pepita Emmerichs, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Cooper, Michael Berry Jr., Lauren Ambrose, Paul Dano
Writing Credits:
Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers , Maurice Sendak (book)

Tagline:
There's One in All of Us.

Synopsis:
"Let the wild rumpus start!" Nine-year-old Max runs away from home and sails across the sea to become king of the land Where the Wild Things Are. King Max rules a wondrous realm of gigantic fuzzy monsters, but being king may not be as carefree as it looks! Filmmaker Spike Jonze directs a magical, visually astonishing film version of Maurice Sendak's celebrated children's classic, starring an amazing cast of screen veterans and featuring young Max Records in a fierce and sensitive performance as Max.

Box Office:
Budget
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$32.695 million on 3735 screens.
Domestic Gross
$77.222 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 3/2/2010

Bonus:
• Shorts By Lance Bangs
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (Febraury 24, 2010)

Spike Jonze brings a much-beloved children’s tale to the big screen with 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are. Nine-year-old Max (Max Records) is an angry boy. He’s angry his dad is gone. He’s angry his mom (Catherine Keener) dates someone new (Mark Ruffalo). He’s angry at his sister (Pepita Emmerichs) and her friends.

After Max has a meltdown and bites her, his mom sends him to bed without dinner. Instead, he runs away and takes a boat that ends up on a special island. There he encounters a group of huge creatures called the Wild Things. Though initially afraid of them, he stands up to them and convinces them to make him their king. The film follows his adventures along with a mix of complications.

Confession time: as far as I recall, I never read the Maurice Sendak book on which the movie is based. That makes comparisons impossible, though I believe the adaptation falls firmly into the “loose” category. Sendak’s tome was a pretty brief picture book, so Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers needed to expand a lot to flesh out the material to feature length.

I would deem their efforts a success, though I can’t declare the results to be rousing. On the positive side, the cinematic Wild Things creates an inventive, involving universe. The creatures are human enough to make it possible for us to relate to them, but they still maintain appropriately monstrous elements. This is a fantasy setting with a good basis in reality, and that makes it more effective. This is a world in which a maternal figure declares that she loves someone enough to eat him up and literally means it.

The film favors a certain psychological bent, but it doesn’t beat us over the head with character interpretation or themes. One can easily see aspects of Max’s life in the wild things, especially in terms of Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini, acted by Vincent Crowley) and KW (Lauren Ambrose/Alice Parkinson); they seem to stand in for Max himself and his mom, respectively. These semi-doppelgangers allow Max to learn lessons, but the movie doesn’t force those lessons on us; they’re presented in a pleasantly subdued manner.

Wild Things definitely gets a boost from an excellent cast. All the voice actors do nicely – I especially like Catherine O’Hara’s “downer” – and Records proves quite winning as Max. He pulls off the role’s anger in a convincing manner; he doesn’t come across like the usual cutesy Hollywood kid. Records develops the character’s other emotions as well and turns out a solid performance.

I applaud Jonze’s choice to use a combination of “men in suits”/puppetry/CG for the wild things. In this day and age, the standard choice would be to go all CG, but I think that would’ve given the characters a phony sheen. The fact that the creatures actually exist in the real world provides them a heft that otherwise wouldn’t exist, especially given the presence of a young actor with them. I’d guess that Records found it easier to develop his performance with actual beings against which to work; that must be more effective than talking to a tennis ball on a stick.

With all the praise I’ve thrown at Wild Things, why do I still refuse to deem it a “rousing success”? I simply feel the movie lacks a certain magic that would take it to a higher level. Sure, it gives us an entertaining fable, but it fails to deliver a spark that would allow it to burrow under our skin and take us to another place. There’s a certain clinical quality about it that keeps it from achieving greatness.

In a weird way, I get the feeling that Jonze tried so hard to distance himself from tradition Hollywood “movie magic” that he went too far in the other direction. So much of Wild Things feels almost matter of fact; there’s rarely a sense of awe or wonder about it. We don’t really invest in the magic because the film what let us; Jonze so mistrusts sentimentality or audience manipulation that he eliminates much of the story’s emotional potential.

Despite that strangely detached impression, I think Wild Things works. I certainly find many positive elements here and believe the film creates an engaging fable. I just wish Jonze had indulged his inner Spielberg a little more and allowed us to more strongly invest in the characters.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

Where the Wild Things Are appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not an exemplary transfer, the presentation usually looked good.

In truth, the image really only faltered during darker shots. When we went to low-light settings, the movie tended to look somewhat blocky, and artifacts became more apparent. Those elements also were somewhat dense; it wasn’t particularly easy to discern details in dark scenes.

Otherwise, this was a pretty positive transfer. Most of the movie demonstrated good sharpness. Some softness occurred in wider elements, but the majority of the flick boasted nice definition. No issues with jaggies or edge haloes occurred, but some moiré effects cropped up at times.

Source flaws remained absent. Colors tended toward an amber tint, with a very low-key palette on display. Within the film’s design, though, the colors appeared fine. Blacks were reasonably dark and tight. Though not a great transfer, I thought the flick usually looked good.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Wild Things, it complemented the film well. The soundfield opened up nicely, especially during wilder… uh, things. The shots on the island tended to broaden in a satisfying way, and I liked the extensive use of localized speech.

The surrounds contributed a reasonable amount of unique information as well and added involvement to the piece. If forced to pick the best one, I’d choose the dirt clod fight; it used all the channels in an encompassing manner. Music was also more active than usual, as the score came from all around in a satisfying manner.

Audio quality was always solid. Music showed nice range and clarity, while speech came across as natural and distinctive. Effects possessed good heft and punch; those elements showed fine power while they remained accurate. All in all, this was a satisfying track.

In terms of extras, all we find are four Shorts by Lance Bangs. These include “The Absurd Difficulty of Filming a Dog Running and Barking at the Same Time” (5:32), “The Big Prank” (3:23), “Vampire Attack” (0:51) and “The Kids Take Over the Picture” (4:57). “Dog” provides a fun glimpse from the set, as we see the challenges discussed in its title; it’s an extremely minor aspect of the shoot, and that’s what makes it fascinating.

“Prank” isn’t very entertaining, as I suspect it’s funnier to those who were there. “Attack” is just a weird little piece of goofiness with Max Records and Spike Jonze, while “Kids” provides a more typical “behind the scenes” featurette; it shows all the children who were on the set and how this helped Records. It and “Dog” are easily the best of the bunch.

The disc opens with a few ads. We get promos for IMAX Under the Sea, the Wild Things videogame, Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove, The Blind Side, Scooby-Doo: Abracadabra-Doo and The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest videogame. No trailer for Wild Things shows up here.

I can’t say how fans of the original book will respond to the cinematic version of Where the Wild Things Are, but I think it works – mostly. The film keeps us reasonably entertained and involved, but it lacks a certain magic that would make it great. The DVD offers good picture and strong audio but skimps on supplements. The movie is good enough for at least a rental, and big Sendak fans should consider a purchase.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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