I came out of Where the Wild Things Are yesterday afternoon feeling very mixed about what I’d seen.
Let’s talk about what’s amazing first: the creature designs are stunning. The “monsters” look exactly like I remember them from the book. The movements and the facial expressions are breathtaking. Designer Casey Storm deserves an Oscar nomination and, unless something more stunning comes a long, he’ll likely get it too. The scenic designers should also pull in a nomination for their work. The landscape of the monster’s kingdom, including their homes and especially the fort were incredible in their intricacy and realness.
The voice actors capture the angst and sadness of these monsters. A particular standout is James Gandolfini as Carol (the monster that’s in the poster on the left). I had no idea he had that performance in him. Lauren Ambrose as KW was also a great and moved me the most out of all the monsters. Max Records is spot on as Max. He does the “ignored” boy well, and really comes into his own as the king trying to rule over, and make things okay for, the monsters.
At the end of it all, however, to paraphrase Will, the movie is about a bunch of depressed monsters. After 90 some minutes, it’s a lot to take in without feeling worn out. I’m not sure children will sit still for it–no matter how much they like the 300 word book. I’m not opposed to dark and moody movies, but there’s something here that makes it all a little too much. I wanted the movie to feel magical and wondrous like the book, which is also quite dark. The film doesn’t carry that through. I’m not sure where it went wrong, because all the components looked good on paper. It just didn’t quite gel.
I’ll probably give this another look on DVD or cable and maybe my thoughts will change. It’ll be interesting to hear what others think of the film and see if it’s very polarized between those who like and those who dislike.