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Where the Wild Things Are: Nowhere You'd Like To Be

Where the Wild Things Are is a misleadingly adventuresome title for the bizarrely dreary and depressing film version of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book. They should have called it Monsters of Prozac.

The cheapest-looking $100 million movie of the year, Where the Wild Things Are combines a look straight out of the Sid and Marty Krofft children’s shows of the 1970s with the shrillness of a John Lennon-Yoko Ono primal scream therapy record from the same grotty era.

In a script by Dave Eggers that is guaranteed to bore and mystify children while making adults grind their teeth, young Max (sensitively portrayed by child actor Max Records) is a lonely boy who seems to have no father and whose big sister joins a gang of bullies who crush his igloo on the front lawn (but only after Max starts a snowball war with them). Max does a lot of pouting and shouting about this and other big problems such as his dislike of frozen corn. He first jumps on a kitchen counter screaming at his mom (Catherine Keener, in a cameo), then runs away from home, down the street and into a world of his own imagination.

Being John Malkovich and Adaptation director Spike Jonze, a niche talent if there ever was one, is one of the oddest conceivable choices to helm a big-budget movie for all ages. He has said that this is not a children’s film (it sure isn’t!) but a film about childhood. If so, it’s about a really boring and dismal one.

When Max escapes to his imaginary land, across a roiling sea, he is beset by shaggy eight-foot monsters who at first admire his ability to destroy stuff (he runs around attacking the creatures’ huts) then wonder if maybe he might be a better meal than a friend. Max, thinking quickly, persuades them that he has magical powers and is, in fact, their king.