Here is a film that had passed me by. Christmas and the New Year had put a dent in my cinema going and with that I had almost missed a film I had been awaiting with baited breath ever since the teaser trailers. My expectations when I finally caught the film on it’s last cinematic legs at the Odeon on Panton Street, where to be whisked away to a land of nostalgia, a celebration of what it’s like to be a young boy again; much like I feel when watching Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story. Perhaps it was the obviously similar Jim Henson-esque creatures that inhabit all these fantasy worlds, perhaps it’s the age of the protagonists, whatever invited those similarities I was never whisked away, rather left bemused and disappointed by Jonze’s efforts.
The narrative is quite simple; Max (Max Records), is a rather unhappy young boy, although for no obvious reasons, who in the midst of a tantrum, travels inwards to his imagination. Max’s imaginative world is a rather superficially beautiful place, a place of rustic comfort, inhabited by the Wild Things of the title. Rather than celebrate the youthful imagination of a child, Where the Wild Things Are stomps on life with it’s big-hairy-puppet-foot. The Wild Things are as unhappy as Max and come loaded with enough baggage to sink the Titanic. They moan and groan their way through life, fighting each other and engaging in asks of mindless violence, however one of them is introverted, one of them is never listened to, one of them is sensible. Perhaps the Wild Things represent Max’s many characteristics and are as confused as any boy approaching puberty. Their behaviour is irrational and tedious, but they are also vulnerable and curious about life. Anyhow the message is loud and clear and rammed down our throats until we are choking: life is tough and the world is a serious place – playtime is over.
The cinematography is accomplished however, and there are some truly memorable images in the film, which the soundtrack admirably supports. The pace of the film is often slow and younger viewers will be lost in the soul-searching dialogue and want to see more fun.
Where the Wild Things Are succeeds as a visually arresting doctrine into the traumas of adolescence and an exploration into the recesses of our darker thoughts; it however fails to be a family film and should carry a government advisory warning to younger viewers – WARNING – LIFE WILL NOT ALWAYS BE FUN, YOU WILL HAVE TO GROW-UP SOON.