Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

February 25, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

I first came across the 1963 children’s picture book by Maurice Sendak when I was far too young, but the innovative and intriguing furry monsters on the page remained firmly etched into my mind.

And so when I saw the poster for the live action film based on the book directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), I became curious.  How were they possibly going to pull this one off?  What was the storyline going to be?  Wouldn’t the monsters look really silly?

Well, I finally got to watch Where the Wild Things Are, and I was both amazed and a little disappointed.

The visuals were fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.  The monsters came to life in a way I never expected they could.  I couldn’t tell whether it was CGI or giant puppets or both, but regardless, you could have fooled me into believing that they were real.  They weren’t identical to Sendak’s original creations, but make no mistake, you can tell immediately that they are from the same mould.

The look and feel of the film also recaptured that sensational I felt when I first read the book as a child.  It was grey and cold and just as I remembered it.  You could even say it was kind of magical.  Trust Spike Jonze to be able to deliver this type of unique, creative vision.

On the other hand, where Where the Wild Things Are let me down a little was the overall enjoyment level.  It was hard to tell whether this was supposed to be aimed at children (though it is far too dark and scary for young kids), or at adults (though it feels like there isn’t enough substance for the grown ups).  It’s a simple story, but at the same time it felt inexplicably complex, as though we were missing something from the irrational behaviour of the monsters.   There was some fun, but on the whole the vibe I got was depressing and negative.

Maybe I didn’t really “get it”, or perhaps I need to see it again, but it didn’t engulf me the way I wanted it to.

I can’t bring myself to give Where the Wild Things Are an average rating because it is so unique, so groundbreaking; I’ve never seen anything like it before and probably won’t again (until perhaps Jonze’s next film).  But did I enjoy it as much as an engaging drama, a thrilling action movie or a hilarious comedy?  Not really.

3.5 stars out of 5!