Where The Wild Things Are is a disappointment. This let down does not come from the fact that it's based on a beloved children's book that I've never read, but because it's from the visionary director of quirky indie classics such as Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, two wonderful films filled with wit, energy and a distinguished zaniness.
The setup here is fairly simplistic, almost pedantic. Lonely Max is upset when his sister's friends destroy his igloo. He reacts by trashing his sister's room and much later, when his stressed out mother is spending some time with her boyfriend much to Max's dismay, has an argument with her and runs away. His escapade takes him to a faraway, remote land, across sprawling seas, inhabited by giant, furry, teddy bear like creatures (the Wild Things of the title) that he befriends and eventually rules over as their king.
The movie is too complex for children – each of the Wild things are either meant to be representative of Max's diverse personality and psyche, from the always playful, temperamental Carol to the attention seeking, lonely Alexander, or members of his family. This fact will certainly be lost on the children in attendance making them scratch their heads, and in all likelihood, quickly lose interest. For adults, other than those who have possibly read the book, I can't seem to find any compelling reason to actually sit through the film. There is very little drama that unfolds. The entire film essentially presents the tired adage of 'boys will be boys' in filmic form but with very little to hang on to. The bipolar script oscillates between moody sadness or, at times, viscerally fearful (a frantic forest chase might be too frightening for the little ones), but it's all very little to really hold your attention onto for too long. This is a neurotic fairy tale for the modern, post angst, dysfunctional family and it made me crave for the more simplistic innocence of films such as Coraline.
To give credit where credit is due, the creature effects, marvellously rendered on screen using a mix of CGI and the unmistakable puppetry of Jim Henson's creature shop are top notch. Every Wild Thing has a uniquely identifiable personality, from their gait to the fabulous voice work by the actors under costume (James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper and Forest Whitaker being the most instantly recognizable). The pensive, dreamy aura throughout the film also owes a lot to the folksy, mystical musical sound of Karen O (of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs) and together this gives the film a unique atmosphere. Still, at the end, you are left asking if not only was the film worth watching, but whether it deserved to be made in the first place, considering the source material was essentially a picture book with very little in the way of actual dialogues. By that measure the adaptation is also more visual, but perhaps too stretched out to justify its own existence. - Faizan Rashid