Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I wanted to love "Where the Wild Things Are," the new film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. I headed to the theaters on Saturday with a pocket full of chocolate and hopes for a wild rumpus to beat the band (knowing it would never beat the book). The rumpus wasn't nearly wild enough, and as the movie ticked along, I felt less and less connected to Max (the young boy at the heart of the story) and his imagination.
Director and hipster hero Spike Jonze starts out strong with three or four set pieces that nicely capture the pent up energy and aggression of a young boy left to his own devices. And there were other things I liked.
The Jim Henson produced "wild things" are terrific and able to express real emotion across their furry faces.
Jonze clearly loves to shoot into the sun, creating dreamy sequences meant to warm the heart.
And Karen O's soundtrack is a nice match, though I think Jonze indulges in music video-like sequences a little too much. This, of course, may be the very thing that speaks to a generation who prefer their storytelling on the big or little screen, and may find the perfect book unsatisfying.
Despite these and other likable qualities, I found myself kinda bored. I yawned, reached for more chocolate, and kept thinking this would be a much better movie if it were tightened to an hour.
I wouldn't steer anyone away from seeing "Where the Wild Things Are" because there are redeemable qualities. But I'd rather recommend some of the websites that have popped up in support of the film.
A friend who admired the movie told me about "We Love You So" a blog started by Jonze and the "hundreds of different artists, writers, photographers, musicians, actors, and creators of all degrees" who worked on the film. The site includes posts about the film, works by artists who inspired Jonze, and random posts, like one recommending the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia (home to antiquated medical oddities and skeletons galore).
You'll also find lots of photography, including pics of Jonze, and kids from all over dressed like Max. The site even recommends products! I could spend hours on this site - it's like a little portal into the brain of Spike Jonze. What a great idea for a movie!
There's also Vice Magazine's project featuring the work of 24 artists who were inspired by 'Where the Wild Things Are" as well as interviews with the film's creative team, including the costume designer, the cinematographer and editor. The art is more direct in its inspiration, but still worth a peek.
If, like me, you were disappointed in the film, spend some worthwhile time on these sites which, in their own way, honor Maurice Sendak and Max's imaginative world.