|Where the Wild Things
Starring Max Records, James Gandolfini, and Lauren
There are a lot of things to love about the live-action adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, but there needs to be at least one more. It is without question a fully realized visual landscape, one familiar enough to invite us in yet unlike something we've really witnessed before, and it's generously loaded with great music that fits (and helps set) the overall mood. And yet... The effect of the ending of Where the Wild Things Are is very similar to watching a dazzling fireworks display only to expect a big finish that never materializes. To put it another way, it's missing that secret ingredient. Granted, director Spike Jonze couldn't give us a literal interpretation of Maurice Sendak's book, a staple of every childhood since the 1960s. Where the Wild Things Are is only about 40 pages and, of course, it's not full of dialogue or exposition. So making a feature film version of that book might be...20 minutes long? Clearly, Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers had to frame the story with something and give the characters more to do than they previously encountered. I don't even want to really evaluate the film based on those necessary changes or the ones Jonze gives the story to add more dramatic weight and slightly change the events leading young Max (Max Records) into this strange and magical land. But it doesn't fan the flame high enough, despite all those other wonderful things. When you watch the film, you might think the Wild Things - beasts of Max's own creation that look like larger, more fearsome stuffed animals - are clever puppeteering, like an advanced form of Muppets or something. In fact, they're a combination of puppets and CGI, and phenomenal work at that. If ever there was meant to be a live-action version of this classic story, the Wild Things had to look exactly like this.