Live-action movie versions of kids’ picture books are rarely very good. I’m thinking particularly of the versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat, both of which I found utterly unwatchable (and, honestly, those are the only ones that leap to mind at the moment). So I hadn’t had a lot of hope for the movie version of the classic kids’ book Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. It’s one of my, my wife’s, and my kids’ favorite books, so I figured the chances were low that the movie was going to live up to our standards.
My feelings were not dissuaded by the fact that the movie was first announced several years ago, and was originally supposed to come out last month, but got delayed and is now scheduled for next October. The last I’d heard about it was that Spike Jonze was going to direct it, which worked in its favor, and that Dave Eggers was going to collaborate with Jonze on the screenplay, which could’ve gone either way, to my mind. Jonze is an excellent director, but Eggers has no experience writing screenplays, and besides, I often find his writing a bit too self-involved.
Consequently, I was really glad to read a new interview with Jonze by Moriarty on Ain’t It Cool News. It sounds like they’ve gone to enormous effort to be true to the source material, and to find the right actors for the right parts. I was glad to find that they didn’t go with a known child actor to play Max, though now that I think about it, I’m not even really sure why I’m glad—maybe because most known child actors are too old for the role, anyway. They’ve got some really excellent actors and actresses, including James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Forest Whitaker, and Catherine O’Hara.
It’s still not entirely clear to me how one makes a short kids’ picture book into a feature-length movie while remaining true to the story. I’d be more comfortable if Sendak were involved with the movie in some way, but the interview and the pictures accompanying it do make me look forward to it somewhat, which is definitely something I didn’t expect to happen.
What do you think?