I watched the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are a couple of times convinced I couldn’t wait to go see it, and that upon seeing it I would enjoy it greatly. Director Spike Jonze’s name ensures a stylish, existential journey. With his cockamamie track record how could I not get excited? In reality I waited a month and a half or so to finally see it, paid $12.50 for the ticket, nodded off through a good chunk of it, then walked out feeling ripped off. And sleepy.
2009 has been an uninteresting year so far, so I’m a bit miffed the one movie that grabs my attention – and my dough – ended up pretty boring. It starts out well. Max in the wolf suit, running around, freeze frame, scratchy font title – groovy. All the character introductions are handled well. When Max stumbles upon the monster village, it’s mysterious and frightening. When he proclaims himself king and gets on James Gandolfini’s good side, I was still along for the ride.
Once the second act begins the movie treads water, forever. It turns into plodding whatever, a dirt clod war that goes on way too long and an unsatisfactory emotional climax. It’s pretty basic stuff. Max befriends monsters, Max betrays monsters’ trusts, monsters get mad, they eventually come around and make up with Max. If you asked me for many details I couldn’t provide them. One of the monsters befriends some owls, another feels ignored and … feelings get hurt. Whatever was happening onscreen, I couldn’t buy into it.
I tried to focus on something else to admire like the set design or the camerawork or cinematography, and besides a lot of nice shots of the sun with Luke Skywalker-y silhouettes against it, there wasn’t a whole lot there to grab me either. The movie looks drab. The monsters look a step above Fraggle Rock creatures. I realize the technology must be far beyond what Henson did, so why are the results practically the same?
The writing failed to grab me. The voice actors, with the exception of Gandolfini, sound as bored as I was. The soundtrack starts up in fits and bursts, keeping things kind of interesting, but only because the soundtrack is the most interesting thing about the whole thing. Looking at the trailer now after seeing the movie I realize it’s the Arcade Fire song that kept my attention.
If it wasn’t for the dull, forever-long second act Where The Wild Things Are would’ve been something special. It ends on a nice note, something the rest of the movie could’ve used. The movie’s clearly not for kids – the ones in the theater were restless and clearly had no idea what was happening onscreen – and the adults were just as nonplussed. After watching the final product I can understand why studio execs reportedly panicked over Jonze’s cut. He didn’t deliver a bedtime story, he made a sleeping pill.