Max Records plays Max an angry young boy. You are not told why.
It is implied that Moms new boyfriend may be the reason. The kid throws a snit, screams at his mother, runs away from home, steals a sailboat and sails across the ocean to an island.
When Max bolts from the house, Mom chases after him, but she lacks the speed and agility to catch the kid.
My mom was never that slow. When I grew up, that behavior would have been the next thing to a death sentence.
And I dont get the attraction these days to unruly kids. Are we supposed to think this negative behavior is cute? For the record and in my book Records Max is one of the all-time most unlovable kids Ive ever encountered in a movie.
But I digress. On the island, Max encounters the wild things.
Theyre giant, furry creatures, except for the one that looks like a large chicken. Max lies through his teeth to the gullible group and is made their king. He leads them on adventures such as building a gigantic fort that only a kid can imagine. They also have a dirt clod fight. Oh, how exciting.
Strife starts almost immediately in Maxs new kingdom. The lead wild thing, Carol, is miffed at fellow creature KW because she has friends he doesnt like. Some of the others dont trust Max. Blada, blada, blada all the way to Maxs syrupy reunion with a mom.
Spike Jonze, best known for music videos and Being John Malkovich, directs his first flick since 2002s excellent Adaption. His film is beautifully shot and technically perfect. He even convinces you that his creatures, who look like basketball or football team mascots, are really talking. He gives Maurice Sendaks creatures life with enough dimensions to make them at least physically interesting.
What they dont have is personality.
That leads to the crux of the problem. Childrens books dont often make good movies. Once in awhile, one works out but turning a 48-page and nine sentence book like Where the Wild Things Are requires too much fill. Nine sentences leaves too much room for screenwriter Dave Eggers less-than-wild imagination.
Eggers who penned the art-house disaster Away We Go that was released earlier this year gives the creatures in Sendaks illustrations one-dimensional personalities. You dont connect with them. You dont understand them. And after an hour, you and the kids you dragged to this disaster wont care.
Gene Deitchs seven-minute animated version in 1973 is probably too short, but it is much closer to a length that works for this story. Even the idea behind the opera version of Sendaks 1963 book makes more sense than turning it into a live-action movie.
Im no doubt treading on sacred ground. Any criticism will be viewed as sacrilege, but as proof I offer these facts: the opera tanked, the short subject went largely unnoticed except by the industry, and Jonze version is made for adults and will bore kids to tears especially the really little ones.
And Im surprised there isnt more criticism by busy-body, social-control kids advocate freaks about how this movie encourages children to behave in dangerous and disrespectful ways. Max stands on top of a table and screams at his mom, and he trashes his sisters room. Then, he steals a boat. After that, he makes a dangerous trip across the sea to hang out with strangers.
In this case, just teach your kids not to go to movies where angry kids destroy other peoples property, steal other peoples property, scream and yell at a parent, disrespect everyone and when things dont go their way, they run away from home and hang out with strangers that want to eat them.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG for mature themes and some violence. It opens Friday, Oct. 16 at Regals Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.