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· Blu-ray Reviewer
15,837 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·

The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Warner - 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 101 minutes
Genre: Fantasy-Adventure

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: VC-1
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Max Records, voices of: James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Forrest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Music by: Carter Burwell & Karen Orzolek
Written by: Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers based on the book by
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 2, 2010

"It's hard being a family"

Film Synopsis:

Let the wild rumpus start! Nine-year-old Max runs away from home and sails across the sea to become king of the land Where the Wild Things Are. King Max rules a wondrous realm of gigantic fuzzy monsters - but being king may not be as carefree as it looks! Filmmaker Spike Jonze directs a magical, visually astonishing film version of Maurice Sendak's celebrated children's classic, starring an amazing cast of screen veterans and featuring young Max Records in a fierce and sensitive performance as Max. Explore the joyous, complicated and wildly imaginative wild rumpus of the time and place we call childhood.

My Take:

Where the wild things are is a film based on the children's book, written by Maurice Sendak in the early 1960's, about a boy named Max who frolics about his home making mischief while wearing his wolf costume. As a result his mother sends him to bed without dinner. In his room, a mysterious, wild forest and sea grows out of his imagination, and Max sails to the land of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are fearsome-looking creatures, however Max is able to control them by staring them down. Afterward he is made "the king of all wild things", and begins dancing with them in a "wild rumpus". After a while he finds himself lonely and homesick and he returns home to his bedroom where he finds his dinner waiting for him still hot.

Writer/director Spike Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers adaptation coincides with the original story's theme which centers around familial issues arising from adolescent anger stemming from frustration over parental divorce, which leads to feelings of anxiety, fear, and a child's need for comfort, stability and love. The film adds quite a bit more detail to the story especially once Max arrives on the island of Wild Things. Once he arrives there he encounters the group of Wild Things, Carol, KW, Douglas, Ira, Judith, Alexander and Bernard the bull. Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) is the fiercest of them which inevitably makes him the leader. Following his lead, the entire group, with the exception of KW, is in the process of destroying their houses in the woods. Max decides to join in which stops the ruckus as everyone surrounds him wondering who/what he is. When they contemplate eating him, Max convinces them with a lie that he is a "great king with magical powers" capable of bringing harmony to the distraught group. They promptly crown him as their new king and introduce themselves. K.W. (voiced by Lauren Ambrose) shows up and Max declares a "wild rumpus", in which the Wild Things smash trees and tackle each other, ending with them all piling on one another (with Max at the center) then going to sleep. The next day Carol takes Max on a tour of the island, showing him an intricate model he built out of sticks, depicting what he wishes the island looked like. Inspired by Carol's model, Max convinces everyone to build an enormous and fantastical fort, with Carol in charge of the construction. Carol and Max become close and Max notices that there is some sort of friction between Carol and KW. Each of the Wild Things seem to have individual traits they bring to the group's dynamic however they all recognize Carol's dominating presence and concede his propensity for anger when things don't go his way. This surfaces after the fort is completed and KW arrives with her two friends (who are not members of the Wild Things circle) Bob and Terry. Max intervenes and finds himself faced with Carol's resentment over Bob and Terry's presence as well as his inability to deliver on a promise that he made when the Wild Things deemed him King. With the group's solidarity fractured Max comes to see that perhaps he judged his own family to harshly and misses them. The question is will he be able to return them?

I went into this review completely blind to the original story and having only caught brief glimpses of the trailer on television. My initial reaction to the story early on was lukewarm at best. Once it progressed and I began to understand the relationship of the characters to Max's interpretation of the things that have gone on in his life I appreciated the nature of how the story is reflective of how a child like Max sees things. This is the nucleus of the film's strength and I think that Jonze and Eggers do an excellent job of imparting that to the audience. I thought that young Max Records did a terrific job in the lead role and his performance coupled along with the wonderful voiceovers by the cast of notables added to the movie's charm. Simply viewing this film on the surface as a fantasy/adventure may leave it feeling cryptic, odd and unsatisfying. Understanding the relationship of the island and its inhabitants to the psyche of an imaginative 9 year old from a broken home helps to make it more of a rewarding experience.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 86

  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:

Video: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

Where the wild things are comes to Blu-ray from Warner featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 mbps.

This 2.40:1 framed video presentation offers good high definition resolution that has a filmic quality that works very well with the film's fantasy based theme. Images are stable and relatively sharp with plenty of visible texture and revealing nuance during close-ups. This isn't a very bright film however images can be snappy and effervescent and sullen and muted where appropriate. Many sequences are shot in uneven and low lighting. Shadow delineation is excellent which provides scenes like the one where Max arrives on the island and climbs the embankment with strong depth and dimension as the shapes and texture of the surface/rocks is noticeable. White and black levels are well balanced so that both light and dark elements have good dynamic range and discernible gradational highlights that enhance the level of perceptible detail within objects and backgrounds. In the scene where it begins to snow, the camera centers on Max, the shot has excellent dimensionality as the crisp white snow flakes fall against the dark pitch of the background. Prior to Max's arrival on the island colors are natural but not overly prominent. The island and its inhabitants have a decidedly limited palette that is made up of sepia tones, stages of gray, and white that give it a purposefully distinct visual aesthetic that coincides with the story. Grain is present with a mild veil that is primarily visible light bright backgrounds which provides texture without overemphasis. While not always visually engaging, I found this film to look beautiful in high definition.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix featured definitive front channel separation and opulent clarity. Soundstage depth and imaging across the left, right and center channels was excellent. This gave the multitude of directional sounds and dialogue deep room penetration, high level perception of detail, and appropriate near field placement. It also elevated the sonic refinement of the film's eclectic music. The surround channels were used primarily to augment the sound field emanating from the main channels and to solidify directional panning sequences via use of ambient and discrete sound placement. The delivery was quite good and never felt shallow or lacking in spatial dimension. The dirt clod war sequence serves a great example of this track's use of the entire soundstage. Low frequency effects had solid weight and deep extension that resonated well in the room with tangible authority. This was an invigorating audio presentation that mated well with the source material and seemed to accurately reflect the film's theatrical performance.

Bonus Features:

  • Higgelty Piggelty Pop! An all-new short featuring the voices of Meryl Streep and Forrest Whitaker

  • (HD) HBO First Look - 13 minute featurette

  • (HD) Maurice and Spike - 3 minute featurette

  • (HD) Max and Spike - 7 minute featurette

  • (HD) The Records family - 7 minute featurette

  • (HD) Carter Burwell - 5 minute featurette

  • (HD) The absurd difficulty of filming a dog - 6 minute featurette

  • (HD) The big prank - 3 minute feature

  • (HD) The kids take over the picture - 5 minute feature

  • (HD) Vampire attack - 1 minute short

  • Digital Copy Bonus Disc

Final Thoughts:

Where the wild things are isn't your average run of the mill children's fantasy/adventure film. Adapted from the children's book of the same name by Maurice Sendak it presents us with an imaginative look into the mind of a child that is faced with life's complexities and his interpretation of them while he sorts out his own feelings of resentment, anger, fear, and frustration. Coming from a broken home myself this film struck a chord with me and I ultimately found it to be rewarding. Speaking of rewarding its debut on Blu-ray Disc from Warner is a good one that features excellent lossless surround sound, admirable high definition video quality and an unusual but pertinent bonus supplement package. I think that Where the wild things are has attributes that can be enjoyed by the entire family. I enjoyed it and recommend that you take it for a spin on movie night.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)

Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen

Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)

Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

· Registered
1,035 Posts
I completely agree with your analysis, it is not a simple Wall-E or Aladdin movie....it is complex and requires the audience to connect the dots between Max's fantasy world and his real family at home...if you can keep those connections alive during the movie, it is very rewarding.

· Blu-ray Reviewer
15,837 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·

Originally Posted by GoCaboNow /forum/post/18206152

Hi Ralph, great review. Do you think this movie is too advanced or scary for four year olds?


I don't think it is too scary but much of the dialogue and interplay among the Wild Things will go over their heads. They may be frightened by a scene later when Carol becomes aggressive though.

Other than that they might enjoy the creatures, games etc.


· Registered
32 Posts

Originally Posted by SbWillie /forum/post/18220786

Flat out torture to watch! Sorry but it's true....

It should also be noted that the director strays a little from the original story (According to my oldest daughter).

I think the original story is something like 10-12 full color spreads with maybe 10 lines of text. The movie doesn't so much stray from the illustrated book as it builds on it. When the book first came out many critics felt the same about it as film critics felt about the movie. some of the themes are certainly too deep for children but the movie like the book is intended to open the dialog between children and parents. Why certain things are not allowed and that all actions have consequences.

I remember being fond of the book growing up. not so much because of the story but for the illustrations. I thoroughly enjoyed the film but would be hesitant to let a child younger than 6 or 7 see it.

just my two cents.

· Registered
172 Posts

Originally Posted by SbWillie /forum/post/18220786

Flat out torture to watch! Sorry but it's true....

It should also be noted that the director strays a little from the original story (According to my oldest daughter).

Have to say, I couldn't disagree with you more! I know this film was polarizing for both audiences and critics alike, but I loved it. In fact, it easily made it into my top 10 list for 2009. An important note, made by director Spike Jonze, is that he didn't make a children's movie; he made a movie about childhood. Those are two very different things. One review I read said, "this is an elegy for childhood, made by and for adults looking back on it." I'm not sure I agree that this is only for adults, as I know quite a few kids who enjoyed it, too. But, what I took from the film will be very different from what the average 10-year-old takes from it.

Saying the film "strays a little from the original" is like saying the pope maybe a little Catholic. The original story features a mere 10 sentences, so of course any film adaptation would have to be greatly expanded and fleshed out. But, author Maurice Sendak was very involved and gave this Eggers/Jonze version his blessing.

I won't pretend this film is for everyone, but for those who haven't seen it I encourage you to take Ralph's advice and give it a chance!
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