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Heroes of the Zeroes: Where the Wild Things Are

by on December 2, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Where the Wild Things Are”
Rated PG

Spike Jonze’s 2009 “Where the Wild Things Are” told a remarkably wondrous fable about a fantastic land, offered earthy parables about imagination and emotion and meditated on childhood viewpoints from which we all must move on.

Jonze is a filmmaker focusing on imagination’s nuts and bolts as much as its bells and whistles. Together with co-writer Dave Eggers, he finds a natural, unforced elasticity to Sendak’s simple story about Max (Max Records), a troublemaking 9-year-old who escapes his dreary home life to the land of the Wild Things.

Angst prevails even in this world of magical creatures (in which Lance Acord’s warm, sweeping cinematography holds sway), and Max is aware his imagination is simultaneously an escape from, and evocation of, his reality — a coping mechanism.

The Wild Things are giant lumbering creatures, a high-tech/low-tech mix of suited actors and computer-generated faces. Freedom of movement is so thorough that they pick up clumps of leaves in their haunches, and feelings beam through with the most lifelike digital faces since Gollum.

Best among them is Carol, given verbal life by James Gandolfini in a performance so winningly childlike you’ll wish there would’ve been an Oscar category for it.

The unforgettably organic and otherworldly “Things” encourages embracing all that we are, but it’s not presumptuous enough to suggest what “it” is. Jonze and Eggers know it’s not the same for every child.

Profoundly and unexpectedly moving, “Things” urges a coexistence of love, responsibility, compassion and rambunctiousness that is intelligent and intimate.