Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are” was a book of wonderment as a kid for me. I loved Max, loved the “Wild Things” and might have even lived out that fantasy myself on more than one occasion as a child. (Okay, to have my Mom tell it, I was scared of the book as a child but let’s not split hairs, shall we?). When it was mentioned that it would be turned into a feature film, I met the news with half-excitement/half-apprehension. However, those fears have all but been alleviated after seeing one of the most exciting trailers I have seen in a long time. Talk about exceeding expectations. I love the look of this film from what I can tell. It’s like the LeBron James of films when it comes to creative achievement, it only needs the title for ultimate validation. A film that easily ranks as one of this years Most Anticipated (click for list), Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are looks to be outstanding.
The story is simple enough, Max is a boy acting up, so he is sent to his room without his dinner (supper) and there he creates a fantasy where his room turns into a forest, seemingly mean and scary creatures (the Wild Things) are there, and Max becomes King of the pack. There really is not much more to the story than that on the surface. I recently re-read the book as source material, a true challenge given how many words there are in it. I found it to be rather…blank. There essentially is very little to the book, which left me questioning why I was so excited in the first place about hearing it was to be adapted into a film. I wondered aloud, what is all the fervor about? Well, the book is a perfect opportunity for a creative mind like Spike Jonze’s to take hold of the adaptation and let his imagination run free. Just like mine did as a kid (for better or worse, depending on who you ask). That is the beauty of the story as well as the challenge presented in Sendak’s original work. The book has grown in popularity throughout time, with a CGI version of the piece attempted briefly at Disney and a USPS stamp commemorating the book available a few years back.
Spike’s movie version of “Wild Things” features the voices of James Gandolfini (perfect as HBO’s “The Sopranos” lead Tony Soprano and presumably, he matches well here) and Forest Whitaker as some of the Wild Things themselves, as well as Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo and newcomer Max Records (as the star, little boy Max), among the human actors. The footage to this point has showed very well. The creative department has marketed the film with beautiful posters and the music in the trailers has seemed to excite the masses. But can a project that has been rumored to have a swelling budget, some serious production concerns and a potentially niche market be a success at the box office? That is the question that lingers. Spike’s footage seems far more aimed at the adults who grew up when the book was originally published (1963, still before my time), rather than today’s kids. It remains to be seen if there is enough material available from an incredibly sparse book to turn into a full-length, engaging film. It has been a challenge to turn the initial delays and concerns into positive buzz, but it seems to be working. The IMAX element of the film is another strong point, in my estimation, though it will still be difficult to predict it’s success or failure. Consider me firmly rooting for it to be a hit and I am sure I will turn out early for its opening when the film drops.
Where The Wild Things Are is due in theaters on October 16th.