AWFJ Women On Film – “Where The Wild Things Are” – Susan Granger reviews

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Perhaps the most daunting challenge for director Spike Jonze in adapting Maurice Sendak’s beloved story was the realization that the entire book contained less than 10 sentences, extended over 20 pages. Yet, working with Dave Eggers, along with Sendak, he has visualized the fantasy world that has sparked so many children’s imaginations over the years, mixing live-action with state-of-the-art puppetry and computer animation.

Nine year-old Max (Max Records) is frustrated and angry. His parents are divorced. His teenage sister is more interested in her boyfriends and his hard-working mother (Catherine Keener) is stressed-out. No one has time for him so, in utter frustration, Max puts on his wolf suit and runs away.

Yearning for a place where he’s the center of attention, he sails off for the adventure of a lifetime, landing on an island where meets a variety of gigantic, growling creatures and becomes their King. There’s Carol (James Gandolfini), a natural leader, along with his dependable rooster-like sidekick, Douglas (Chris Cooper); KW (Lauren Ambrose) is a maternal presence; caustic Judith (Catherine O’Hara) with her companion Ira (Forest Whitaker), who loves to punch holes in things; and, last but not least, goat-horned Alexander (Paul Dano) whom nobody listens to. Obviously, they’re all bestial manifestations of Max’s conflicting, turbulent emotions, and the reality of being in charge isn’t as easy as he thought, particularly when it comes to being a family and building “a place where only the things you want to happen, would happen.”

This is the third feature film from gifted Spike Jonze, who demonstrated his unique cinematic style with “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” He ventures into dark, cryptic territory here. Newcomer Max Records makes the aching heart of the childhood story totally believable, supported by acting veterans, particularly James Gandolfini. And shooting near Melbourne, Australia was an inspired choice, particularly the desolate desert scenes. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Where the Wild Things Are” is an endearing, escapist 8, an engaging story for all ages, earning a place of honor among family-friendly films.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.