Where the WIld Things Are gave the local distributors here a hard time deciding whether to let it loose on the big screen, or not. The trailer was played for some time, and the posters went up, but slowly but surely the release date got perpetually pushed back, until everything got yanked off the screen. This is probably the first film here that had a Facebook group (now quite defunct) set up for movie fans to clamour for its hopefully eventual screening which didn't materialize, but got a sizable following that went on to organize a DVD collective purchase of sorts.
At first I thought, it's quite the no brainer to market it because it's adapted from a popular kid's story written by Maurice Sendak, so the target audience would naturally be the kids, right? Not quite, as after watching the film, director Spike Jonze had weaved quite the mature tale here, sans any semblance of a cutesy nature that could be squarely targeted at its supposedly intended niche audience. Besides, Jonze is not quite the known entity around here, and a culmination of such factors made the distributors have cold feet. So it was what it was, and all we got was a local DVD release.
Which is a pity of course, as I would have relished the opportunity to see the gigantic Wild Things here on the big screen. But I digress. This is probably a film meant for and speaking out to the spoilt brats out there, be they young or old. We follow Max (Max Records) the protagonist of the story as he gets his snow igloo broken by friends of his sister Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) before going on a whirlwind destruction of her room. That's a typical sign of trouble to come, but oh-so-identifiable with children as they hit out where they can, especially with his sister's absence. We learn that he's not quite the quiet boy he may seem to be on the exterior, and surely he throws a tantrum when he doesn't get the attention he needs from his mom (Catherine Keener) when she brings home a boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) whom she has to entertain.
Running away in frustration and anger (and possibly a childlike pettiness as well), here's where the story gets interesting as he goes into a fantastical world where Things inhabit, making friends with a bunch of them large monsters voiced by the likes of James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara, Michael Berry Jr, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose and Forest Whitaker even. They crown Max king of their land based on the lies cooked up by him about his magical abilities, in the hopes that he'll bring happiness to the group. Alas for all his ideas with his new playmates, he soon finds out that if one of them is emotionally difficult, and probably his best friend and favourite amongst the group, everyone does not get better off and any marked improvements they had made took two steps back. In some ways this parallels his own life and provides him that mirror, before gaining maturity in knowing what needs to be done best.
The amazing fusion of live action and live sized puppetry combined with CG is what stands out in the film, especially when The Wild Things come out, moving and emoting as if they were truly real creatures. The fantastical landscapes made up of large deserts and beaches also makes the film quite the visually arresting piece that leaves you wide-eyed and marvelling and how seamless all elements seem to come together in presentation. While the story's quite the given that it's a literary classic quite familiar with many, Jonze has this adult like treatment in what may seem like a children's story on the surface, which probably made risk-averse distributors think twice about their bottom line, which is indeed a pity.
But there's always the alternative DVD route to take to watch the film, and I'm glad I did. Don't let this slip you by, and perhaps one day we may see more market ambiguous films take to the cinemas here, given a strong and growing niche audience who can be counted on to support well made films that contain the whole works from competent acting to a story that moves.
The Region 1 DVD from Warner Home Video presents the feature film in an anamorphic widescreen presentation with language and subtitles available in English, Spanish and French. Scene selection is over 18 chapters, and the DVD autoplays with a series of trailers and adverts (9:26) featuring Imax Under the Sea, Where the Wild Things Are videogame, Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove, The Blind Side, Lord of the Rings - Aragorn's Quest game and Scooby Doo: Abracadabra Doo.
The Special Features however are quite scant and forgettable, so for those who are looking for more in depth stuff, you'll be sorely disappointed with what seems to be a series of behind the scenes look at cast and crew having fun. The Absurd Difficulty of Filming a Dog Running and Barking at the Same Time (5:31) is really just that, with the film crew really exasperated with trying to coax the designated dog to either bark, or run properly, or both. A reminder how difficult it can be when working with animals. The Big Prank (3:23) is like a punk'd moment for director Spike Jonze which involves a vespa scooter, Vampire Attack (0:53) is an extremely short film again showcasing the amount of fun going around the set, and The Kids Take Over the Picture (4:57) is a look at who the crew's kids are who hung around the set, learning and having fun at the same time.