Movie Review, Jackie K. Cooper
Let me say up front I have never read Maurice Sendak's children's book Where the Wild Things Are, so I didn't come to view the film version of this story with any kind of awe or reverence. I watched the movie cold and I left it cold to the idea of a world where wild things lived and filled the void in a young boy's life.
Spike Jonze has adapted Sendak's few sentences of storyline into a full length movie about a young boy named Max who feels isolated and alone in his home. His sister ignores him and his mother is busy with her work and her new boyfriend. The boy becomes rebellious and runs away. He finds a boat and sets out on the open seas. There he floats to a world where wild things live.
These large creatures accept the young boy and decide to make him king. The boy loves the attention and tries to rule his new kingdom. It is a place of clod fights, fort building, and piled on sleeping accommodations. It is the world for which he has been searching.
All of this sounds like a fun film for the kids and an emotional one for adults, but it isn't. The film is much too scary for younger children and much too boring for older ones. If there is an audience of any type for this film it is probably older teens and young adults. They will possibly read into the bare bones plot all kinds of symbolism and meaning.
The acting is okay. Max Records plays Max who is the center of the film. He has some natural abilities that entertain somewhat. Catherine Keener has the world weary look necessary for the mother. James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Cooper and others provide voices for the wild things and manage to mark them with distinct personalities.
The basic problem of the film is there is no core emotional element to surround the story. The audience never really relates to Max and his problems and certainly not to his attachment to the wild things. Plus the story is muddled. Does Max actually run away to sea or is all this only in his mind? How long is he gone? And most importantly what has he learned?
The film is rated PG for mild violence.
The special effects in the film are great. The wild things move and act believably. The look of the film is not so good. It is drab and sterile. All the warmth of the sun seems to have been drained from the landscape and from the characters. Aside from a few funny lines, the dialogue is mostly one of complaints which go along with Max's feelings.
Sometimes people get from movies what they bring with them. There are those who will come to this film remembering a child's book from their youth and they will treat the film with reverence. Others who do not have this past history with the story will just be bored and disenchanted. It basically is a love it or hate it film.
I can appreciate Jonze's direction and the care he gave to the film to get the images he wanted, but I still can not fall under the spell of the book that he viewed.
I scored "Where the Wild Things Are" a crazy 4 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper