Where the Wild Things Are

The long-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book oozes hipness: writer/director Spike Jonze, cowriter Dave Eggers, a soundtrack co-composed by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, a commendable cast led by child actor Max Records, and of course the beloved source material. And the film is a feast for the eyes: costumes, locations, production design, cinematography, puppetry, and animation are all seamlessly integrated into one unique and beautiful vision.

Yet Where the Wild Things Are is one of those movies that I admire without actually having enjoyed. Those expecting a wild rumpus will be disappointed: Jonze and Eggers use Sendak's material to explore the darker side of children's relationships, as the Wild Things, despite their hippie commune milieu, are essentially children. And I must say, the filmmakers have done something extraordinary in capturing the complex, remarkably political friendships between kids. Watching this film brought back long-dormant memories from my own youth: not pleasant memories, per se, but honest memories about the difficulties in dealing with all those other new, developing personalities.

Of course the Wild Things in this film may also symbolize the often childish ways adults treat each other (these creatures speak with the mature voices of James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Cooper, and the like). But in the end, while there are some rich emotional truths here, and while Jonze and company have succeeded in making exactly the movie they set out to make, the story isn't very compelling and there is little joy to be had amongst these mopey, bickering monsters and the lonely child whose feelings they represent. I'm glad I saw it, and there will be people who consider it a classic, but personally I found it kind of tedious.