MOVIE REVIEW- Overhyped:<i> </i>Not everyone's wild about <i>Wild Things</i>
It would be easier to jump on the bandwagon and rave about Where the Wild Things Are, but I'll be honest and admit I didn't get it. I've been underwhelmed since the first trailer appeared on the Internet and everybody went crazy.
No, I haven't read Maurice Sendak's book– all 338 words and 18 pictures of it– which director Spike Jonze, writing with Dave Eggers, has expanded to feature length; so I can only judge its merits as a film.
Max (Max Records) is a moody, imaginative nine-year-old. He's ballsy enough to start a snowball fight with a bunch of older kids, but cries when he loses. His Mom (Catherine Keener) and older sister don't have time for him, and all his friends are imaginary. His favorite clothing is a one-piece coverall with a tail and whiskers that makes him look like a wolf with cloth skin.
One night, he runs away from home and sails to a faraway land– in his mind, perhaps; it's never clear how literally we're supposed to take his journey. There, he persuades half a dozen large, goofy-looking animals to declare him their king instead of eating him– although judging from the pile of royal bones, King Max may have a short reign.
Each of the animals represents some aspect of Max's personality, and with them he can do all the things he enjoys: running, jumping, fighting, throwing tantrums, building things and destroying them, and "sleeping in a real pile." Unlike the real world, Max can be in charge of this one.
Max's best friend among the animals is Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini while someone else dances in the suit and a computer supplies the facial movements), who keeps trying to patch up his romance with KW (Lauren Ambrose). Judith (Catherine O'Hara) and Ira (Forest Whitaker) are a more stable, if not necessarily happy couple. Ira makes holes in trees, and quarrelsome Judith is "kind of a downer." Carol is jealous of KW's new friends, Bob and Terry, a pair of owls who like when she knocks them out of the sky with rocks.
With much of the time spent in petty squabbles and discussions of feelings, the film often becomes lethargic and seems like "Lord of the Therapy Group." Jonze comes to the rescue with a bouncy song and some action, but not always soon enough. There's sufficient melancholy to qualify Where the Wild Things Are as a childrens art film.
The limited palette produces an almost sepiatone look, which is fine if your favorite color is brown.
It's well made, and some people of various ages will love it, but I wasn't wild about Where the Wild Things Are.