Where the Wild Things Are
Where the Wild Things Are ~ I still haven’t read the Maurice Sendak children’s book this wannabe blockbuster was based on, so I’m walking into watching this blind with a clean slate. That’s probably how movies should be viewed ideally anyhow. What amazes me most about this flick is how much the studio seemed to invest in its success. They thought this would be huge. There are stuffed animals, video games, skateboards, and even public service announcements on late night radio using dialogue and music from the film. I have to wonder what went wrong, because this was no blockbuster.
The story, as it begins, is of a lonely (and possibly emotionally disturbed) little kid from a broken home who has anger management issues. Somehow I kinda doubt this was in the book, but it’s not a good start for what, to my mind, appears to be a happy movie, at least in all the previews. The opening sequences in the ‘real’ world are actually quite upsetting, so I really had to wonder what screenwriter/director Spike Jonze was thinking. Having done some of the more innovative music videos in recent years, I decided to trust.
The boy, Max, runs away and travels to the land of the Wild Things, monsters who have their own anger management issues. Among them, James Gandolfini as Carol is the only real inspired voice casting. The Wild Things, in the dark at first seem wonderful special effects, but once in the daylight, they unfortunately become sad Sid and Marty Krofft creatures, and raggedy ones at that. Max spends time with the Wild Things, eventually becoming their king and realizing that their life on the island is an analogy of his troubled life at home, whereupon he heads back home, valuable lessons learned all around.
Having seen Where the Wild Things Are I no longer wonder why it didn’t work. First and foremost, this is not a kids film, despite the source material. This is an oppressively dark film with much understated if cartoonish violence. While it succeeds on some levels, it fails horribly for the kids. And I can imagine many young fans of the book left the theatres in tears.
This is an intriguing curiosity for the effects, and for adults who read the book as a child, but this isn’t for the kids. Worth watching for free, and that’s about it. I was unimpressed.