Where the Wild Things Are

Rated 3.0

There’s a lot to like in the Spike Jonze feature-film version of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, enough at least that it’s something of a puzzle that this long-awaited movie makes a rather limp impression overall. The production’s remarkable combination of live action and extra-large animated puppetry is managed with superb technical skill, and the feature-length opening-out of Sendak’s classic children’s book remains earnestly devoted to the original throughout. The screenplay (by Jonze and Dave Eggers) delves into considerable analytical self-reflection on the primal issues of childhood fantasy that were mostly implicit in Sendak’s beguilingly compact tale. The film’s handsome expansion of Sendak onto a larger narrative scale is one of its signal accomplishments, but that near-epic stroke of creativity does not come without costs. The Jonze-Eggers Wild Things is particularly interesting as a kind of retrospective meditation on Sendak’s original, but that interest is more cerebral than aesthetic, and more dithery-academic than richly emotional. Max Records is very good as the central child/narrator/king of the story, and his wistful half-lost innocence works nicely with that of the assorted puppet-figure caricatures voiced by Catherine O’Hara, Chris Connelly, etc. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated PG