Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead!

This reviewer is truly torn. For a movie that's so incredibly touching, so intensely emotional and impeccably filmed, it seems a shame to advise moviegoers not to take their children. But there's a sadness to 'Where the Wild Things Are', almost as if director/co-writer Spike Jonze has captured the insecurity and doubt that our current society is grappling with, especially the unstable economy and ever-increasing volatility overseas. Jonze has masterfully put on screen that very fear in the form of monsters - a metaphor that shouldn't escape any adult watching the film.

For children, the movie may be a tad scary and violent. If you do decide to take the little ones, prepare yourself for lots of tears and many questions during the car ride home. The story follows 10-year-old Max (Max Records), a young boy who has difficulty living with his single mother and teenage sister. He feels left out and doesn't receive enough attention at home. After an incident where everything culminates, he runs away from home and into the Land of the Wild Things. Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead!

This reviewer is truly torn. For a movie that's so incredibly touching, so intensely emotional and impeccably filmed, it seems a shame to advise moviegoers not to take their children. But there's a sadness to 'Where the Wild Things Are', almost as if director/co-writer Spike Jonze has captured the insecurity and doubt that our current society is grappling with, especially the unstable economy and ever-increasing volatility overseas. Jonze has masterfully put on screen that very fear in the form of monsters - a metaphor that shouldn't escape any adult watching the film.

For children, the movie may be a tad scary and violent. If you do decide to take the little ones, prepare yourself for lots of tears and many questions on the car ride home. The story follows 10-year-old Max (Max Records), a young boy who has difficulty living with his single mother and teenage sister. He feels left out and doesn't receive enough attention at home. After an incident where everything culminates, he runs away from home and into the Land of the Wild Things.

Based on Maurice Sendak's popular children's book, 'Where the Wild Things Are' is as close to cinematic perfection as you can get. The cinematography is stunning (it's filmed in Australia), and the characters roam from a desert locale to a dense forest to a beach paradise in what seems like a brief jaunt. Right on par with the scenery is the casting. In his first-ever starring role, Records is outstanding. His innocent eyes and spot-on, emotive facial expressions belie his inexperience.
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Fantasy Worlds on Film
The Land of the Wild Things
Troubled tween Max desperately wants attention and someone to play with - and his single mother and teenage sister certainly aren't providing him with it - so he sets sail for the Land of the Wild Things.
Warner Bros.
Getty Images North America
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Fantasy Worlds on Film

    The Land of the Wild Things
    Troubled tween Max desperately wants attention and someone to play with - and his single mother and teenage sister certainly aren't providing him with it - so he sets sail for the Land of the Wild Things. When he lands on the island, he's instantly thrust into the world of the monsters, and they're free to fight, play War, and build forts from sunrise to sunset.

    Warner Bros.

    Oz
    Oz is a fantasy land inhabited by munchkins, witches (both good and bad), and talking animals. Texas girl Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto inadvertently land there after a tornado swallows their house. It's generally a happy place full of colour in 'The Wizard of Oz', but definitely takes a darker turn in 'Return to Oz', a 1985 sequel with Fairuza Balk.

    WireImage

    Narnia
    Adapted from a series of children's fantasy books, the fictional realm of Narnia is a place where children play central roles in its unfolding history. Animals talk, magic is everywhere, and good faces off against evil. The land is ruled by a gentle lion named Aslan. We'd love to have him on our side.

    Moviefone

    Pan's Labyrinth
    In post-Civil War Spain, a little girl named Ofelia travels with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, Captain Vidal. When her mother falls ill and her father becomes increasingly despotic, Ofelia retreats into Pan's Labyrinth. She discovers the fantasy world after entering an overgrown garden and meeting a faun who believes her to be Princess Moanna. He gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon to ensure return to her father's realm through the labyrinth.

    Picturehouse

    Tideland
    Tideland is created by an abandoned child named Jeliza-Rose after her father dies from a drug overdose. She summons the imaginary Tideland with the aid of dismembered Barbie doll heads that she wears on her fingertips. The dolls act as Jeliza-Rose's companions as she explores her fantasy world and the Texas landscape around her rundown farmhouse.

    Capri

    Pleasantville
    'Pleasantville' is a black-and-white 50s sitcom that centers around an idyllic middle-American family. David, a 20th-century high school student, is a huge fan. He and his sister acquire a futuristic new TV remote after breaking their old one in a fight. As they resume fighting over the new control, they are transported into the TV and the town of Pleasantville. As they introduce the moores of the future into the traditional world of Pleasantville, the town becomes awash in colour.

    Wireimage

    Jumanji
    Jumanji is the name of a boardgame that dates back to the 19th century. The instructions read: "A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind." Sure enough, upon the roll of a dice, you can either be sucked into the game or watch as animals and other jungle hazards appear from within it.

    TriStar

    Cool World
    While incarcerated for murder, cartoonist Jack Deebs creates a new comic book, Cool World. The story is populated by "doodles," most importantly the sexy blonde Holli Would. Upon his release from prison, Deebs is transported into Cool World by Holli who wants to have sex with Deebs so she can become real. Unfortunately, sexual relationships between noids (humans) and doodles (toons) are illegal in Cool World.

    Paramount

    Toontown
    'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' is set in fictionalized Los Angeles, where animated characters ('toons') live and work with real humans. There is a section of this L.A. called Toontown, where only toons reside. It's sort of like a cartoon ghetto. Would be a cool place to visit, for sure.

    WireImage

    Books
    In another live action/animated film, Macaulay Culkin's character Richard falls unconscious in a library and is subsequently trapped in a land of books. He learns to confront his various fears in the animated world of literature. A movie for geeks and outcasts, this is a cult favourite.

    Twentieth Century Fox



The Wild Things are equally impressive, partly because all of the dialogue was recorded long before filming began. Canadian Catherine O'Hara, who voices the sarcastic and sardonic Judith, claims that Jonze insisted that all the actors come over to his house and play War in his backyard. He wanted intimacy amongst the cast, and boy, did he get it. James Gandolfini voices the gruff and misunderstood Carol, Forest Whitaker voices the whipped Ira, and Lauren Ambrose voices the embattled KW, to name half, and there's such a depth to each of them that it's hard to believe the actors weren't ever in the costumes. And - oh! - the costumes; so true to the book, and so Jim Henson-esque.

Perhaps most amazing is the scant amount of material that Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers began with. The book is very short and has minimal dialogue. Somehow these two guys have flushed out one of the year's best scripts - and so many times the silence on screen is at once deafening and yell-out-loud. There were countless instances when I felt the pit of my stomach fall, only to have it yanked back up by a hilarious line from one of the Wild Things. It's fresh without being patronizing, and there is nary a groaner during the whole 1.5-hour run time (a true feat for a children's movie).

'Where the Wild Things Are' refuses to let you put it in a defining box, which is probably its greatest charm. In a world where kids are force-fed princesses and fairy-tale endings, it's refreshing to see a movie where everything's not tied up in a nice little bow. The ending leaves room for interpretation, and the whole premise of the movie relies on the use of your imagination (when you aren't too busy choking back tears). It made me long for the days when I built snow forts and had grand dreams of ruling the world.

"Maurice Sendak said that kids will go see anything, so you have to give them something worthy for their fresh, beautiful minds," says O'Hara. "The scariest thing is – try this – go into another room when a kid's movie is on. The music tells them what to think at every moment. There's a lot of crap out there, and it's cheesy. We don't want automaton children."

There are lessons for all of us to learn from this movie. Think of it as a children's film for adults. It'll take you somewhere you haven't been for a long time.

Four stars out of four. A must-see.
CATEGORIES Reviews, Cheat Sheet