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"Where The Wild Things Are" Review

Somehow I managed to make it though childhood without encountering (or having a strong memory of reading) Maurice Sendak's classic Where The Wild Things Are. In fact, before the movie opened last year, I stopped at Borders and took a couple of minutes to read the ten-sentence long tale of Max, a bratty kid who apparently drops acid causing his room to melt into a jungle where he meets weird creatures and then after he comes down, finds himself back in his room with his dinner waiting. I suspect that stoned college students are the primary audience for this book.

Co-writer/director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has attempted to flesh this slight storyette into a hundred-minute long feature film and while he gets the look of the wild things down (executed by a combination of large costumes by the Jim Henson Creature Shop and CGI animation), the story seems grafted on to cover Jonze's issues than expand on the book.

Max (Max Records - that's the actor's name, not the place where Jack Black worked in High Fidelity) is introduced chasing the family dog with a fork. The product of a broken home with an aloof sister and a busy harried mother (Catherine Keener), Max is an aggressive, "acting out", punk who needs a spanking more than anything. One night, while wrecking his mother's date night, he bites her and dashes into the night, finding a tiny boat which he sails across the stormy seas for a couple of days before landing on the island where the Wild Things are. (Well, that covers the title.) Max then proceeds to make every one of these fantastical creatures miserable until he decides he's done enough damage and goes home. Thanks, kid.

Little more than a collection of loosely connected vignettes, I was more interested in imagining at what point parents, taking their rugrats to the show for what they assumed would a "kiddie flick," started to freak out at the noisy and upsetting situations depicted. (Parents I know who took their kids reported no problems and the kids liked it, but we'll see what happens when their spawnlings take off seeking Wild Thing Island in a boat.)

Visually interesting and true to the source, I never got into the story or characters much despite the solid performances. I had nothing invested going in because I didn't have a history with the book and the film didn't grab me either.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.

Or better yet, watch the totally awesome (and totally inappropriate for kids) Wild Things, which this movie, unfortunately, is NOT a sequel to.


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