While surprisingly overlooked in theaters, hopefully a larger audience will be able to savor virtually every moment of entertainment found in "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE," available on blu-ray and dvd from WARNER BROS.
The classic illustrated children's book by Maurice Sendak, has been faithfully re-created for the large screen by Spike Jonze. In a rare feat, the magic found within the source material has been captured and even expanded upon. While most previous adaptations, "CAT IN THE HAT," "HORTON HEARS A HOO," have suffered when trying to pad the story for a longer film duration, "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE" makes the most of its 101 minutes, leaving the viewer satisfied with a perfect balance of contentment and desire for the film's magic not to be ending. The film manages to delve into some important themes, while always carrying about a child-like sense of awe. When young Max, feeling complete alienation from his mother, her new boyfriend, and older sister, runs off into the night, wearing his wolf suit, jumps into a small boat and sails away for nearly a year, finally settling on the island where the wild things are, there's never a moment of disbelief! Jonze's direction pulls the viewer into this strange, slightly off-putting world, instantly, and never loses its grip. When the monsters he encounters are enthralled with his story-telling and make him their king, believing, as Max does, he can keep peace for all time within their environment. As the story unfolds, the viewers, along with Max and the wild things, realize the concept of serenity being everlasting is a real "fairy tale," and acceptance and appreciation, without harsh judgment or giving in to fear, are the things that matter most.
While some of the imagery may be a little too intense for the youngest of viewers, most will be enthralled. "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE" offers the kind of family entertainment,(albeit darker)that "WIZARD OF OZ" has been doing for decades. It shouldn't be missed. Jonze has created a world for the story, faithful to the mood of the source material. While now filled with color, it's not to be mistaken for a "colorful" film. Instead, the scenery is painted with browns, oranges and yellows suitable for the "wild" environment Max has immersed himself within. While not vibrant, the colors and fleshtones always feel natural. The camerawork, with plenty of hand-held shots, helps in creating an environment complimented with the transfer, but also inherently limiting in terms of achieving great depth. There are numerous scenes wherein the image is soft, regardless of the stunning detail found in other moments. Both the blu-ray and dvd offer impressive color and contrast, however the dvd image suffers to a notable degree during the darkest scenes, wherein shadow can drown out fine detail. The dvd offers some notable banding as well.
WARNER BROS. has provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix for blu-ray and standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for dvd. Both are energetic and immersive from beginning-to-end, balancing a variety of environmental effects dialogue and a magnificent score from Carter Burwell and Karen Orzolek. Whether displaying subtle nuances or deep bass, the lossy mix is superior to the standard dolby digital mix of the dvd in virtually every scene-to-scene comparison. Still, for those who haven't yet taken the recommended step over to blu-ray, the dolby digital mix ranks up there with the best dvd mixes available. However, when comparing the profound impact inherent with a lossy mix, to that of standard dolby digital of dvd, "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE," makes for an impressive example of why blu-ray is vastly superior.
Most of the featurettes found on the blu-ray are also offered on dvd, with blu-ray providing the benefit of HD. However, a terrific extra, "HIGGLETY PIGGLETY POP! or THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE," can only be found on blu-ray. Mery Streep and Forest Whitaker provide voices for this animated (24 minute)film about a dog and the assorted characters it encounters. It's terrific and shouldn't be missed!