A timeless story gets on the screen

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By Kirsten Laskey

It’s amazing that the book, “Where the Wild Things Are” only needed a few sentences to become beloved by young readers for generations. It’s not just the words that resonate with people – you see the story’s illustrations everywhere – coffee cups, T-shirts, posters and stuffed animals. To make a movie after a book that every kid has read and memorized and that features illustrations that everyone recognizes seems tough. There is sure to be someone who will huff, “This is not as good as the book.”

Perhaps that is true but the movie, “Where the Wild Things Are” took this classic tale and made the story all its own.

Certain essentials are still there – Max, the main character, remains a little handful, but the movie expands on his misbehavior and shows a boy with an incredible imagination but who struggles with his chaotic emotions as well as his single mother’s new relationship.

Similar to the book, Max is denied his dinner and with that his adventure begins. He climbs aboard a small sailboat and crashes into an island where enormous creatures dwell.

This mythic world and its inhabitants reflect the inner workings of Max’s mind. The creatures’ appearances are incredible and their physical strength is supernatural but they have a dark side, too. For instance, after they first spy Max, they discuss eating him.

Also similar to Max, they yearn for acceptance and to discover a place where wishes can be fulfilled.

I’m sure it’s a challenge to make a fantasy world believable, but “Where the Wild Things Are” transports the audience to this untamed land. It’s a beautiful world filled with endless sand dunes, misty forests, rocky terrains and churning oceans.

It’s not just the locations where the film was shot that are eye-catching. Even the man-made sets have their own beauty. For instance, with Max as the architect, the Wild Things build an entire fortress that looks like a fantastic sculpture garden.

Max Records plays the main character. He could have been overshadowed by the giant puppets and the older, experienced stars who give the Wild Things their voices, but Records holds his own and brilliantly portrays Max’s every fear, joy and sadness.

My favorite Wild Thing character is Carol, voiced by James Gandolfini. This character likes destruction as seen when he is stomping around, destroying his friends’ huts but he is also a dreamer, which is revealed by his miniature diorama of the place where everything you would like to happen, happens.

It’s been a really, really, long time since I have read “Where the Wild Things Are.” My memory is hazy about what actually occurs on the pages  but watching this movie with my young niece and nephew reintroduced to me the story’s themes of  transitioning from childhood to adulthood and the power of imagination.

Watching them experience this story made these themes even more poignant. No wonder this is a timeless story.