Daily Archives: October 22, 2009

Where the neurotic things are

Film review

In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, ...

Boy hero Max hitches a ride on monster Carol in Spike Jonze’s rather disappointing adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

After my boyfriend and I watched Spike Jonze’s film “Where the Wild Things Are,” we went to a bookstore and looked at Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are to see what material Sendak had given Jonze to work with.

It wasn’t much.

The only character in the story that Sendak named was the boy hero Max. Max’s mother is portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film, but Max’s mother isn’t even depicted in the book. (She is mentioned, though, if memory serves.)

Jonze’s monsters, created by the Jim Henson people, I understand, are quite faithful in their appearance to the way that Sendak depicted them, even uncannily so, but as Sendak didn’t name them, Jonze’s project had to, and so the film version of “Wild Things” sends up rather strange names for monsters, such as Carol (for a male monster), Judith, Ira, KW, Douglas and Alexander.

Sendak’s thin picture book doesn’t give us much: Max (played by Max Records in the film; did the fact that the young actor’s first name is Max help get him the role, I wonder?) is sent to his room, fantasizes about partying with some monsters on an island, and then comes home.

So Jonze’s film fills in the gaping gaps, but it’s mostly just filler.

Jonze’s wild things bicker with each other, exhibit quite-human traits such as jealousy and anger and bitterness and low-self esteem, and in general are pretty neurotic. They start fantastical projects that they don’t finish and they crave a leader (whom they more or less find in Max) because they seem fairly directionless themselves.

Gee, this sounds a lot like a lot of the people in my life, and I don’t know about you, but I go to fantasy movies to escape from my life, not to see my life regurgitated for me on the big screen.

My boyfriend and I kept waiting for Jonze’s “Wild Things” to arrive somewhere, but instead the movie just plods on pointlessly, and then Max goes home.


“Wild Things” is technically marvelous with its faithful, realistic depiction of Sendak’s creatures, but the children’s book takes place in a jungle, and the film version takes place in a deciduous forest setting. A jungle would have been better.

But what Jonze’s “Wild Things” really lacks is a good plot and better dialogue. Special effects aren’t enough.

My grade: C+


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