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Merrick here...
Charlie sent in this report from last night's benefit screening of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE in Chicago (event details HERE).
Here's Charlie's report - notes presented in red have been added by me for context.
I just walked in the door from attending the Chicago premiere of Where The Wild Things Are, which was introduced by (screenwriter) Dave Eggers and Max Records ("Max" in the film), and followed by a Q&A with Catherine Keener ("Mom") and (co-writer/director) Spike Jonze. The night was amazing, as everyone involved in the production was none too shy about relaying their experiences working on the project. A story about Jonze making Keener stand off-camera, drenched in fake blood in order to garner a genuinely scared reaction from Max, was just one of the highlights. As for the film itself, the audience was engrossed the minute the opening Warner Brothers logo came up, designed as if Max had drawn it to put on the fridge. The tumultuous journey from concept to screen, filled with studio concerns and re-shoots, fades away, and the audience is simply left with a stunning vision of childhood, made with great love and care from everyone involved. The film's opening scenes, as Max attacks his teenage sister's friends with snowballs from an igloo fort, involves you in a way that simultaneously builds character while conjuring up uncomfortable past feelings. Everyone remembers as a child the exact moment when a group game, full of fun and inventiveness, swiftly turns into panic, pain, and intense fear, and when one boy "playfully" smothers Max beneath his collapsed fort, you instantly understand the world that Jonze has fought so hard to suitably realize. After a somewhat awkward, heated confrontation with his mother, played wonderfully by Keener, the film then provides a swift transition into the Land of the Wild Things, where Max is introduced and promptly made King by said beastly creatures. I had some hesitance accepting the Wild Things as presented in the trailer, but I'm happy to report that the various effects, CG and practical, come together beautifully in the final product. Almost WETA-level detail is given to every element of the production design, and they go a long way into fully immersing you in the numerous locations, shot on the gorgeous landscapes of Australia. The Wild Things are remarkable, suitably walk the line between lighthearted, mischievous, and terrifying, especially towards the end when Max's position as ruler starts to slowly crumble. Unfortunately, the script does not match the design in terms of quality, which most were expecting anyway, given the extremely bare narrative of the original work. Jones and Eggers do a fine job developing memorable characters, but they strangely chose to include a love quadrangle involving the Wild Things voiced by James Gandolfini and Lauren Ambrose. It strikes a uneven tone with the rest of the story, but luckily the film sticks largely to Max's journey, which Max Records portrays brilliantly. His performance nears the same naturalistic levels of Catinca Untaru from The Fall, effortlessly balancing the curiosity and fear that his character possesses. Additionally, some may find the dramatic weight to be somewhat light, as most developments hinge around such events as getting hurt in a wrestling match, but that is the world in which these characters exist. The film is seen through the eyes of Max, and you must keep that in mind as you progress through the film. Personally, I thought Jonze did an unbelievable job, and I believe most will feel the same way once they finally get a glimpse of his unique vision. If you use this, call me Charlie.

The film opens October 16. Can't wait.

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