bill bodkin explores the cinematic adaptation of a children’s book classic …
It’s odd that a film can be extremely impressive and extremely disappointing at the same time.
Where The Wild Things Are is a movie that, much like its lead character Max, is very intense and teaming with emotion — sometimes uncontrollably.
It’s an absolute visual masterpiece, vividly bringing to life the famed “wild things” that generations of children (myself included) have only dreamed about. Director Spike Jonze’s idea of employing the Jim Henson Company to create the wild things was an absolute stroke of genius. The emotions that these puppets/costumes evoke rivals that of the best actors in Hollywood. You can literally watch this film without sound and be absolutely blown away by the seamless incorporation of puppetry, costumes and special effects that brings these creatures to life. Not since Gollum from Lord Of The Rings has visual effects looked so lifelike.
In terms of adaptation, Jonze and renowned author David Eggers have done an absolutely mind-blowing taking a book that contained only 10 sentences and producing a 90-plus minute feature chock full of emotionally charged dialogue — each line containing significant emotional impact or a life lesson in it.
However, the one thing that the film lacks is an air of whimsy and fun. Since the film was based on a beloved children’s book, it’s surprising how dark and depressing the movie is. If you’re thinking about bringing a young child to this film, don’t. It may be rated PG, but it’s far too intense. From lines about characters being unable to commit, to characters suffering from extreme depression to violent, intense arguments — one including a character getting its arm ripped off — it’s much too mature for a youngster to enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong — these scenes are brilliant. But there needs to be a break from all the intensity. There are small moments of frivolity, mostly during the “wild rumpus” in the beginning, but the film needed just a handful more of these scenes to help punctuate the intensity and serious themes that Jonze and Eggers want to address. As an audience member, you feel a constant bombardment of serious, depressive emotion — which is sometimes exhausting.
This is a tremendous film that deserves a number of Academy Award nominations — especially for its adapted screenplay and visual effects. But for me, the constant intensity caused a disconnect. I anticipated a film that would walk the fine line between fun and serious, much like Pixar’s Up! — the type of film that evokes great belly laughs and genuine tears. But in the end, I felt more downtrodden than uplifted as the final credits rolled.