Storyline that's really wild and wonderful

PUBLISHED: 14:05 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

Where The Wild Things Are (PG) Director Spike Jonze Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano 101 mins Four star rating Max is a wild and unruly nine-year-old child who doesn t quite fit in. Wh

Where The Wild Things Are (PG)

Director Spike Jonze Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano

101 mins

Four star rating

Max is a wild and unruly nine-year-old child who doesn't quite fit in. Where The Wild Things Are is a wild and unruly nine-years-in-development film which doesn't fit any existing preconceptions of what a children's film, or indeed any film, should be.

Various studios have been trying to bring Maurice Sendak's massively successful picture book to the screen since the start of this decade, hampered by the fact that the original has just 10 sentences. Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze's adaptation has Max (Records) run away from home after biting his mother (Keener) and sail away across stormy seas to a land full of giant Gruffalo-like monsters. He quickly becomes their king and institutes a regime of play and roughhousing before discovering how hard it is to look after people.

Though Jonze and Eggers have come up with a subtle and clever script about the relationship between fantasy and reality, most of the film is like a big budget CBeebies programme - In The Mayhem Garden or the Teletubbies if Tinky Winky and co had been chased away by the feral, survivalist cousins of the Banana Splits.

The bulk of proceedings are taken up with bundles and playing war.

Jonze's trademark is filming the bizarre and surreal in a strangely conventional way. He made his name filming two Charlie Kaufman scripts (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) but the films that Wild Things most resembles are two Kaufman scripts that he passed on directing, The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Synecdoche.

The look of the snowbound domestic scenes is very similar to Eternal Sunshine, but it is the expression of raw unfiltered emotions and its urgent vibrant life force that is the real link.

If Synecdoche was all about the fears of a middle-aged man sprayed out over a big screen, Wild Things is a pure and untreated expression of just how it feels to be a nine-year-old boy.

As visually beautiful as it is, the film is really an actors' piece. The Wild Things are brought to life by the Jim Henson Creature Workshop and a tastefully light application of CGI and they are remarkably expressive.

I was so taken in by their performances that it was a little disappointing to find out afterwards that the actors only supplied the voices and it wasn't actually Tony Soprano or the girl from Six Feet Under lumbering around inside those 10ft suits.

Wild Things has gained a reputation as a children's film that isn't for children. Well good. Kids TV and movies are general-ly much better than the stuff that is churned out for adults.

It's time we had some quality kids' entertainment for adults.


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