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12/16/2009 12:20 PM 

As media savvy people will be aware there is currently a great spate of children's classics being reworked and reissued. Pooh Bear has made a comeback to discover that 100 Acre Wood is now being compulsorily purchased for airport expansion plans, and Postman Pat has discovered that all the postcodes have been changed in Greendale as well as the fact that he is no longer eligible for a final-salary pension!

Quite how the reworking for the screen of the picture book of 'Where the Wild Things Are' came about I am not sure, but anyone who is familiar with the book will undoubtedly wonder how such a short book can be made into an engrossing full-length feature film.

The simple answer is that it has not, but Spike Jonze has had a good crack at it. For those unfamiliar with the plot here is an incredibly brief synopsis. Max is a young boy who, after falling out with his mum, finds a boat and travels across a wide ocean to arrive in a place where monsters roam.

Jonze has extended the subtext of the plot to place Max in a single-parent environment with the addition of a disinterested sister and as a bit of a loner. After a series of scenes that depict Max's life, his pubescent angst launches the story to the island where the majority of the action takes place. Here the monsters' voices are those of bored family members (the author/illustrator of the book said that his family were the basis of the monsters' characters). Much bickering takes place between all the monsters and Max is soon discovered by them and has to talk them around into not eating him!

Visually the film is very good. Max's and the monsters' appearances are true to the book; the costumes, animatronics and special effects do make the imaginary land come to life. However, the film cannot quite stretch the limited domain of the tale to engage the audience for the hour and a half that the film exceeds. Ironically the film is rated as a PG as well, which puts it outside the reach of the youngest children. This made me wonder exactly who the film was aimed at. As the monsters moped about sighing and complaining about each other I did yearn for more "wild rumpus" and slightly less ennui!

As a child the book worked well for me, but revisiting the book as an adult I did realise how much more my imagination added to the story. Here I think Jonze missed a trick by not going far enough with his excellent story telling skills. Maybe a less faithful representation of the book would have worked better in this medium.

All in all this is not a bad film, but when pitched against other big productions I doubt it will go into the hall of fame.

** (out of 5)




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