Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963) is arguably one of the most famous children’s books ever published. Its beautiful imagery and simple story touch on a desire in all of us that, even into adulthood, many of us never shed: the desire to go home. When I found out this incredible tale would be put onto the big screen, helmed by none other than quirky music video director extraordinaire Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), I was doubly intrigued. How would the images burned permanently into my mind be realized on screen? How would the wild things look? Would they just CG the hell out of everything and make a husk of a film with no soul? The answer to the CG question was boldly answered by Jonze, spending tons of studio money in the process on expensive Jim Henson Workshop-produced real working puppets and crazy wire-work stunts that have definitely advanced puppetry to the next level. And yet, despite the love and care that so obviously went into the crafting of this film, I still sat through it asking myself: “So when does the story start?”
I still sat there three-quarters of the way through the film saying to myself: “And now the little kid decides to just go home?” How could a children’s book that had no more than 10 sentences capture so much that a two-hour film could not? The answer is simple: a story. To me, Jonze’s film has none because a) Max (Max Records), the protagonist (if you could call him one) never changes and b) none of the problems of the characters in the film are solved. Instead, we have an attention-starved kid who rants and raves around for a couple hours amidst the strange relationships of some weird monsters, and then decides it’s time to go home after he can’t help them all get along and be friends.
I’d like to start this review off with a question: Does anyone even know about this film? The reason I ask is, for those of you who don’t know, I am currently living in Gifu, Japan, where the selection of films from the west that make it to rental here are not always the most well-known or popular back home. Having only read Wikipedia’s plot description of Vantage Point to refresh my memory, I saw there that the film got a 95% at Rotten Tomatoes and was overall a box office success when it was released in February of 2008. Though after seeing the film, I am unable to fathom how that could be the case, why was I suckered into watching Vantage Point? Two words: Matthew Fox.
For those of you who are fans of Lost, let me just tell you, it’s even bigger here in Japan. So if any Lost fan sees Matthew Fox’s face on a DVD cover at the store here, they’re going to rent it. Being a die-hard fan of Lost myself, I got suckered in by the same Hollywood tactic. Although the premise of the film is a little too reminiscent of 24, I liked the idea of a film that employed Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon effect of showing the same event from multiple perspectives, giving the viewer the responsibility of sifting through the facts and coming to their own conclusion. Vantage Point tries to one up Rashomon, however, in that it gives us eight different perspectives of an assassination attempt on the president while he speaks at an anti-terrorism rally in Spain. Now that you know why I gave Vantage Point a chance, let me get to the real heart of the matter. Why didn’t I get this film?