Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

It would seem that someone has asked Hollywood a question: Can we make an avant-garde artsy film out of kid’s movie? Let's ignore for a minute that this person, whoever they are, has never see WALL-E, and notice that two of Hollywood’s most applauded artsy young directors answered the call. Wes Anderson (Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling Limited) offers us a claymation version of Roald Dahl’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox, set to come out around Thanksgiving. And Spike Jonze gave us Where the Wild Things Are.

I’ve always been a big fan of Spike Jonze. Adaptation is, in my humble opinion, one of the best movies of the decade. Being John Malkovich was an intensely successful mind-bender. And then… oh wait. That’s it. And both of those movies were written by Charlie Kaufman.

Nobody that’s seen his old music videos from the 90s can disagree that Spike has an incredible gift for visual conception. Said gift is very much alive in Wild Things. But, well, let’s see… How can I put this best?

Maybe I’m a purist. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe the world is changing around me, and I’m not ready to deal with it. But I’ve always been of the opinion that when you’re making a kid’s movie, you should at least attempt to make it appealing to children. I watched a few of the featurettes on TV and the internet about the movie. I heard Mr. Jonze say countless times that “it’s important not to look down on kids.” And in the process, he made a movie that sails so high over kids’ heads, I don’t think it can even see them.

While I agree children are very capable of perceiving and experiencing emotions that adults often don’t give them credit for, they also like things like slapstick, stupid humor, and all around silliness. Three things which this movie is completely lacking.

I get where he was going with it, I do. The monsters represent various personality traits of the psyche. The general conflict present is the feeling of helplessness and loss of control that every child experiences while growing up. And all the pain that can cause. But, goddamnit, I remember that book being a lot of fun to read. This movie, however, is not fun. It’s downright depressing.

The monsters spend more time moaning and groaning than they do enjoying themselves. Their world is slowly falling apart and they’re freaking out about it. Why would any kid want to watch that?

Strange that someone with such deep roots in Jackass could make a movie that lacks any sense of letting loose and going nuts for a while. Even the “wild rumpus” that Max announces is a let down.

There are very few occasions I find myself wishing a production studio would intervene with a clearly talented director. Jim Jarmusch, for example. There’s such a strong foundation there, but the director gets so caught up in the dream of his vision, he forgets that the rest of us aren’t up there with him.

I’m not saying the movie is a complete failure. But don’t take your kids to see it. They won’t forgive you.

1 comment:

  1. totally agree, Asa. the first and last 10 minutes were great, got lost in the middle... Andy