Where the Wild Things Are
Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy feels misunderstood at home and escapes to where the Wild Things are. Max lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.
The Wild Things desperately long for a leader to guide them, just as Max longs for a kingdom to rule. When Max is crowned king, he promises to create a place where everyone will be happy. Max soon finds, though, that ruling his kingdom is not so easy and his relationships there prove to be more complicated than he originally thought.
Through his handcrafted ode to the trials of childhood, Spike Jonze puts his own unique imprint on Maurice Sendak’s enduring classic. In the prologue, 9-year-old Max (Max Records) stomps around the house, feeling neglected. When his mom (Catherine Keener) sends him to bed without supper, Max runs away (something he doesn’t do in the book). He finds a boat and sails to a distant land where fuzzy monsters are raising a rumpus in the forest. Since his wolf suit allows him to fit right in, he joins the fray, catching the eye of Carol (James Gandolfini, excellent), who notes, approvingly, “I like the way you destroy stuff. There’s a spark to your work that can’t be taught.” With that, they pronounce the diminutive creature king, hoping he can bring cohesion to their fractured family. After Max comes across Carol’s scale-model town, he decides they should build a real one, but the project stalls as Alexander (Paul Dano) and Douglas (Chris Cooper) mope, Judith (Catherine O’Hara) browbeats Ira (Forest Whitaker), and Carol pines for K.W. (Lauren Ambrose), who prefers the company of owls Bob and Terry. Max realizes he has to make a choice: stay with the wild things or return home, where he has to keep his aggressive impulses in check. For readers of Sendak’s slim tome, his decision won’t come as a surprise, but Jonze ends the story on a lovely grace note. Until that time, the squabbling is a bit much—these monsters never stop talking—but Jonze, cowriter Dave Eggers, the Jim Henson Company, and singer/songwriter Karen O. have gone all-out to re-create the inner world of a child with as much empathy as was mustered for the inner adult world of Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Inside Karen O is a Wild Thing—as singer for the Grammy-nominated Yeah Yeah Yeahs, her wild thing is in your face, vulnerable, obnoxious, tender, exciting…a self-proclaimed “spazoid.” To Oscar-nominated Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze, however, Karen O and her music possess something of a child-like innocence, a guileless charm that put her exactly on the right emotional wavelength to sonically capture the film, be it a tender moment or a wild rumpus.
To compose the music, O enlisted friends and fellow musicians she believed had a musical intuition that would bolster her intent to marry sound to vision. Dubbed Karen O and the Kids, these include Tristan Bechet (Services), Tom Biller (co-producer with Karen O and member of Afternoons), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter), Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), Aaron Hemphill (Liars), Greg Kurstin (The Bird and the Bee), Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, The Greenhornes), Oscar Michel (Gris Gris), Imaad Wasif (New Folk Implosion, Alaska), Nick Zinner, (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and an untrained children’s choir.