Where the Wild Things Are
– Movie Review
by Kevin Bowen
published October 16, 2009
Where The Wild
now playing nationwide
There is no way on earth that Where
the Wild Things Are will get the terrible reviews that it fully deserves.
The Maurice Sendak children’s book on which it is based is too beloved.
Director Spike Jonze has too much good will from his days with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Nobody is going to want to admit that this a
Transformers 2-like disaster. But it nearly
The look of the film, lensed by the often terrific Lance Acord, is far too
dark, shot at questionable angles. The pacing is nearly as muddy as the tone. Nor are we helped by Max Records, our child hero, who graces us
with an entire Saturday morning’s worth of cereal box emotions (watching this performance and then young Cody Smit-McPhee in The Road two days later is jarring). Kaufman has finally set Spike Jonze afloat and instead he gets set
For all the alleged creativity, the story is a fairly conventional little
boy wonderland fantasy. Its big innovation is that its giant animals speak to each other in modern lingo that occasionally seems like
self-satire. Of course, all we learn is that we love our family and it’s important to love our family. (Catherine Keener plays the slightly
kooky … mother. At least I thought she was a little kooky.)
The big problem with Where
the Wild Things Are is the most obvious. Even as critters of the imagination, the giant mascot-like animals – man-sized lions and goats
and such – are not nearly as convincing as they probably seemed in Jonze’s head. I hate to say it, but you can always see them acting –
a thing I find very hard to say about giant felt(?) creatures with a straight face.
Nevertheless, they open and close their little mouths while the voiceover gives them something to say. You can see each part working in
tandem. It just doesn’t work, and you sense that the weird middle ground shots are their way of covering up this fact.
Where the Wild Things
Are tests the bounds of physics – can you make a movie with fewer minutes of film
than are in the run time? Seriously, this thing feels like it was made in about 20 minutes. That’s the lasting impression of the film. It just
feels like a shame.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com