As the credits on Spike Jonze's newest film, Where the Wild Things Are, began to roll, I sat in my seat in the theatre feeling a little confused and sort of worried. I was as excited as anyone for the screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, but now as Karen O sang the closing tune, I couldn't help but be concerned that my hipster membership was going to be revoked, because I just didn't really care for the movie all that much.
I know, right! What the hell was wrong with me? But I just couldn't get over it. I wanted to like it so much. It was Spike Jonze and David Eggers and even Mark Ruffalo was in it for all of fifteen seconds. I should have adored it. In fact, the story connected with me on an even more personal level because in second grade, my teacher wrote a short play based on Where the Wild Things Are and I played Max in front of the whole school and parents and everything! I love the book, and when I saw the previews start to pop up months ago, I was excited as all hell.
And yet, I just couldn't. It was beautiful, the soundtrack was good (and could have been great, if it hadn't just been Karen O masturbating herself the entire time), and the direction was fantastic. I mean, it's Spike Jonze after all. But as a movie, it just didn't do much for me. A lot of people defended it for having been based on a kid's book, or as a kid's movie on the whole, but is it fair to somehow hold it to a lesser standard because of that? Horton Hears a Who was fantastic, as was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or at least Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if you weren't into Tim Burton's version), and both of those films were based on a children's book. To argue that my expectations of Where the Wild Things Are should somehow be lower because of the source material is silly, because after all is said and done, it's still a movie. A major motion picture. And not a kid's movie, I'm sorry. It was directed clearly at twentysomethings in skinny jeans and cardigans.
What it ended up being was somewhat disjointed and wandering, without much emotional weight or consequence or even much tension at all. Max disappears, no one goes looking for him, he hangs out with a giant monster version of the MTV's The Real World for an hour, decides that they're just as bad as his bitchy family and goes the fuck home where his mom feels bad that she yelled even though Max was the one acting out in the first place. Maybe I'm a cold-hearted old man for it, but I have no idea how so many people cried through the entire thing. I even tear up at the end of every single Harry Potter movie, and this did nothing to tug at my heart strings.
Forevermore, movies about escaping into a fantasy world from a shitty reality will inevitably be compared to Pan's Labyrinth in my mind, and there just isn't a whole lot you can do to beat that one. There is weight in that movie. There are consequences and there is a whole fuck-load of tension, both in the real world and in the fantasy one. They play off each other, and the movie feels well-rounded and purposeful. It's not that every movie of the genre now has to live up to Pan's Labyrinth, but they should at least be a fraction of what Guillermo del Toro managed to achieve. Jonze's indie music video starring a bunch of tittybaby monsters and a bratty little kid with ADHD--it didn't even step into the ring.
So rescind my hipster membership if you must. I'll cut up my card and hand in my jaunty beret, and be a hipster no more. You can turn me away at the door of every Urban Outfitters in the United States, but I'll get over it I suppose. I tried, I really did. Maybe it will take a second viewing, or kids of my own, but right now, even as a huge fan of the book (perhaps especially as a huge fan of the book), it just didn't do it for me. Sorry guys. I really, truly am.