Spike Jonze Can't Quite Get Spirit of Where The Wild Things Are On Screen

Max and the gang's all here. Let the mild rumpus start!

Jonze has said that Sendak encouraged him to find himself in Where the Wild Things Are. Dutifully, the filmmaker gave Max a single mom and spent hours with Eggers talking about their respective childhoods. Not much poetic sublimation here. What's best about Jonze's movie is its kinetic feel for physical play—herky-jerky camera as Max and the WTs zip and bounce through the forest—not surprising from a former skateboard punk like Spike. What's weakest is its blandness, the sense memory of a child raised on Sesame Street. The psychic environment is less King Kong's Skull Island than Fred Rogers's neighborhood: Where the Wild Things Aren't.

Wild Things isn't overlong, but it is underwhelming. Who is the audience? Children brought to see it might find it a downer—a case of what the New York Times has called "misery for art's sake." Triumph or travesty, this movie is more likely something for Jonze's generational cohorts to love or loathe. (How many suburban garage bands had the name Wild Rumpus?) For me, it seemed like group therapy with the muppets.

The adventures of Max, king of the desert
Matt Nettheim
The adventures of Max, king of the desert


Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze
Warner Bros.
Opens October 16


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