- Running time:
- 101 minutes
- Catherine Keener -
- Max Records -
- Mark Ruffalo -
- James Gandolfini -
- Voice of Carol
- Lauren Ambrose -
- Voice of KW
Imaginative loner Max (Max Records) lives with his single mom (Catherine Keener) and teenaged big sister and spends most of his time chasing the family pet or building snow forts. When his mother invites a date (Mark Ruffalo in a brief cameo) over to the house, Max throws a fit and runs away. His journey takes him to a remote island populated by giant beasts, including the equally sensitive and raucous Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), who promptly anoints Max as their “king.” Based on the classic nine-sentence picture book by Maurice Sendak.
The buzz: This is only the third film from director Spike Jonze, who parlayed major success in music videos into one of the most promising filmmaking careers around with “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” Both of those films were written by Charlie Kaufman, but Jonze fleshed out Sendak’s classic with writer Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”). Sendak, also a producer on the film, picked Jonze for the job, hoping the result would be something with greater depth and personality than the usual Hollywood family movie. That may have been more than distributor Warner Bros. bargained for, as early test screenings led to negative reports about the look of the film’s animatronic beasts, the quality of Records’ debut performance and how scary the movie played for kids.
The verdict: Like all great children’s fantasies—from “The Wizard of Oz” to “E.T.”—“Wild Things” requires its audience to take a giant leap, use their minds and, occasionally, go to some uncomfortable places. The reward is an uncommonly bold and brilliant piece of filmmaking. Jonze makes good on his intent to not make a movie specifically for kids, but rather a movie about what it’s like to be a kid. Very young children could easily be frightened by the dark, dangerous situations Max finds himself in—yet the land of the Wild Things always feels a safe place for Max to work out some seriously complicated emotions. The script by Jonze and Eggers doles out wit and wisdom with subtle, graceful ease. Jonze’s visuals are extraordinary—from Max’s little sailboat practically swallowed by giant waves to Max and the Wild Things at a cliff’s edge, howling at the sky—and the rambunctious playfulness of the action recalls (in a good, PG-rated, way) Jonze’s role as executive producer on “Jackass.” Records makes a terrific young hero, nailing the complex beats of his conflicted character, and the Wild Things offer wonderful individual surprises of their own. There’s a lot to say about “Wild Things” and there will be plenty of time to say it. Jonze has made a film that’s built to last.
Did you know? In addition to her relatively small on screen role, Keener was an associate producer on the film and filled in many behind the scenes roles—from stand-in to acting coach.
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