The beleaguered film that brings a children’s classic book to the screen finally gets released on October 16th. Innovative director Spike Jones gives life to Where the Wild Things Are and gives the audience the opportunity to put on a wolf costume and partake in the wild rumpus.
Where the Wild Things Are is the story about Max (Max Records), a kid from a broken home who’s having a hard time controlling his anger. His sister and Mother (Catherine Keener) receive the brunt of his outbursts and it’s wearing thin. Mom loses her patience after Max’s latest tantrum and Max takes off running. He finds a boat that takes him across the sea from reality to fantasy and to a strange island who’s primary inhabitants are a group of very large, rather odd monsters. The monsters decide that instead of eating him they would make Max their King. With new friend Carol (the voice of James Gandolfini) by his side Max tries to rule justly but finds the responsibility heavy. Tensions run high among the Wild Things in particular between Carol and KW (the voice of Lauren Ambrose) and Max decides that it’s time to go home to his life and his mom.
Let me start by saying I didn’t not like this film. It has some flaws but over all it’s an enjoyable movie. Visually it’s stunning. The Wild Things are right out of the imagination of author Maurice Sendak. Their expressions and movements are wonderfully articulated by the amazing puppeteers from the Henson Workshop. But really, would you expect any less from them? The production design is fantastic. It’s grand in scale and has that childlike sense of awe and wonderment. The Australian locations give it all an other-worldly feel. I should also say how impressed I was with the young star, Max Records. He had some challenges in this film and showed some real maturity as a young actor in facing those challenges.
So here’s what I didn’t like about the film. Firstly the story is extremely dull. There are long scenes of dialogue that go no where. The script focuses primarily on Max’s issues with his absentee father and his frustration over being left behind all the time. Carol mirrors those issues in his impatience for the group to all live together. There are a couple times when you think that maybe the story is shifting to something more interesting like immortality or the death of imagination (similar to The Never Ending Story) or the precariousness of the environment but those never pan out. Secondly the soundtrack by Yeah Yeah Yeah singer Karen Orzolek is intrusive and distracting. Lastly, and this is something I harp on time and time again, the camera work is annoying. It’s a lot of tight shots of heads. As my companion complained “Can I get a wide shot, just one?!” As I mentioned before, the sets were fantastic. I would have loved to seen more of them. It is shot with moving camera but for whatever reason, I didn’t get sick watching this one. Take that for what it’s worth.
I guess when you weigh the pros versus the cons the scale favors the negative side. I think what it comes down to is that I found the story to be such a disappointment. All the visual elements were in place but there was simply no heart to the film. What a shame that is because much like its source material this could have been one for the ages.