Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where The Wild Things Disappoint You Slightly

Preface: This quick review was also sent over to Aintitcool News, because they've posted other movie-related rants I've sent in. They may or may not post it, who knows. Yes, I am a traitor to the Department of Grievances, and no, I don't care too much. Now lets get this party started!

I attended a super special sneak preview advanced screening of Where the Wild Things Are last night, hosted by Dave Eggers (screenplay, author of stuff) and the kid that plays Max, Max Records.

I'll just dive right in. I wanted to love this movie. LOVE. Who wouldn't? Spike Jonze meets Maurice Sendak meets Jim Henson suits meets a plethora of awesome voice actors. What could go wrong? Well, actually, not much went wrong. It was what was inherently wrong with adapting a 20 page book in the first place. For two pages of Max and the Wild Things playing, they stretch it out to 45 minutes. 45 minutes of nothing really happening, 45 minutes of Max and the Wild Things kind of just...hanging out and playing. Those amazing shots in the trailer of Max and the Wild Things howling at the ocean and laying in each others arms that pulled at my heartstrings so vigorously, when you see it in context, it just kind of happens. There's not much build-up, so it doesn't feel like they earn the emotion. I guess I feel that if you ARE going to take liberties with the book and create new scenarios, go all out. Create an adventure they can go on, something.

I don't know. It's tough to find the words for why I was disappointed. The effects and costumes are incredible. No surprise there. The Wild Things all show an incredible range of emotion. The voice actors, unsurprisingly, all great. Max Records was fantastic (first feature film!), Catherine Keener has really nailed the character of Catherine Keener by now, and Mark Ruffalo gives an absolutely inspired 20 seconds of screen time (literally). And there ARE genuinely magical moments sprinkled throughout. I just feel that all these great things didn't come together to create a great film. As we were leaving, my girlfriend said that she went in expecting to see a movie that she hoped wouldn't end, and she didn't get that. I know, it's kind of absurd to judge a movie based on what you expected it to be, but in this case, the loooong production, the trickling of teaser images, the sheer talent involved, the magical source material, the inspiring story of a meddling studio backing down to a talented and resolute's hard not to be let down. I was really hoping for a movie that I'd want to revisit over and over and over again, and show my kids one day, and as painful as it is to say, I don't know if I want to see this again any time soon.

I was going to write up a little review last night, but I wanted to let it marinate first. I didn't want to judge it too harshly or too quickly, because...well, because it's a Spike Jonze film. You shouldn't ever do that with a Spike Jonze film. But I also know when I'm wrapped up and entranced with a movie, and that didn't happen with Where the Wild Things Are, and I kind of feel heartbroken. I may very well be in the minority though, because it seemed to be generally well-received by the crowd, and the kids around me all really enjoyed it. So hey, what the fuck do I know.

Despite my grumblings, go see it. Visually it's stunning, and it is a very nice movie, I'd even go as far as to say it's good, and much better than most of the tripe that gets thrown at us these days, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it just so it makes money and Spike Jonze can continue having free creative reign over his projects.

You just may want to tone down your expectations.


  1. Yeah, I figured this movie would fall in the
    'good not great' category. It would have been next to impossible for it to live up all the hype (let alone to the book).

  2. I really want to get your take on this. One other thing they did that I forgot to mention, and I'm not REALLY spoiling anything here, is that they made the island of the Wild Things a bickering and unpleasant place at times, mirroring Max's real life. The island was a place of fun and adventure. It wasn't supposed to mirror his real life at all. It was his escape. At least that's how I remember it. Right? Gah, I'll stop talking about it until you see it.

  3. That's so cool you got to go to an advance screening. Where was it? Was Dave Eggers pretentious?

  4. He seemed nice enough, but I tell ya, the kid Max Records is a little smartass.