Where the Wild Things Are
A bunch of mopey monsters in suits, some daddy issues, and some brilliant on screen images- this is what’s to be expected from Spike Jonze’s latest flick. The adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are was highly anticipated, what with its huge childhood cult following, Maurice Sendak telling anyone who doesn’t like the movie to go to hell, and Karen O working on the soundtrack. This all sounds like the makings of a fantastic fun time for kids and adults alike, but such is not the case.
For those who have read the book in their lifetime, you know the set up- a young child named Max causes mischief, he runs away to this fantastical place with monsters, and there is much wild rumpus-ing to be had. However, Max soon realizes that partying all the time is no fun, and there’s no place like home. The set up for the movie is similar- with a few minor details added. Max is one of two children to a single mom; dad seems to have run out, leaving angry children and money problems behind him. Mom happens to be dating Mark Ruffalo, and Max doesn’t seem to like it. He runs off into the woods crying and happens upon a boat which takes him to where the wild things are. Heh.
Where the story starts to turn really strange is when Max actually meets the wild things- not only are they wild, they seem to be emotionally unstable. Carol, voiced by James Gandolfini, is in fits about his friend KW leaving the group. Alexander, as played by Paul Dano, has problems with feeling too small and no one hearing him. And Judith (Catherine O’Hara) has some serious anger issues. Max arrives to monsters throwing tantrums and it’s a wonder he musters up any courage to speak, let alone convince them that he’s a former Viking king.
The wild things decide that Max should be their king, and make him promise to take all their loneliness away- a feat which Max willingly accepts, though he is unknowing of the consequences. After some fun times, it becomes immediately clear that a) it’s not safe to stay with the wild things, and b) it’s impossible to make everyone happy. After much yelling, smashing, and even some losses of limbs, Max returns home to his poor stressed out mother, leaving behind angry and tearful monsters howling at his departure.
I’m really not going to sit here and pretend like I didn’t think that Spike Jonze wasn’t going to add quite a lot to the story- be realistic here, in order to turn a 30 page book into a 100 minute movie, SOMETHING had to have been added. What I wasn’t expecting was for the story to be so drab and dreary. It seems like this movie would have made a great short film- it could have stuck to the original script a bit, and we still would have gotten to see Jonze’s wonderful direction.
One thing the movie really does right is the cinematography- some scenes really are beautiful to witness. It’s rather wonderful and creative, despite the depressing subject matter. I’m of the school of thought that the monster suits looked fantastic- they were a combination of people in suits and CGI, lending the creatures a much more tangible feel- though there are some who are saying that the special effects were cheesy and in a few years will look dated and sad. You know, like The Neverending Story.
Overall, I can’t really say that I hated the film- I just personally wouldn’t take my kids to it (if I had any). Too much crying, not enough of that fantastic wonderment of a young child on an adventure. In fact, my friend’s small child can sum up the movie for you in one sentence- “Why are the monsters so sad?”