This isn’t the newest of news, but scary stuff is happening with the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Here are some photos from the movie and a link to the petition being circulated to save Jonze’s vision fo the film, which is supported 100 percent by the book’s author, Maurice Sendak.
Where are the wild things? Too scary for the cinema, apparently
When classic picture book Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963, critics said it was too scary and weird for children. Now the movie of the book, filmed in Melbourne in 2006 by director Spike Jonze, could be scrapped and reshot to make it more family-friendly.
Hollywood studio Warner Brothers is considering big changes to the movie after audiences at test screenings complained that the film frightened children and confused adults, according to film industry websites.
The project was a wild rumpus from the start. Maurice Sendak’s book of monsters was adapted for the screen by iconoclastic author Dave Eggers and directed by Spike Jonze, the man behind the genre-warping film Adaptation – which, appropriately, deals with the impossibility of turning books into movies.
Jonze rejected computer animation, commissioned monster suits from the Jim Henson Company, and filmed in the Australian bush. But the moguls don’t want art-house raves, they want the box office of films such as Shrek or The Grinch.
One test screen report said “kids at my screening began to cry and asked their parents to leave, so that should give you an idea”.
The lead actor was also a problem: “Max comes off a bit weird and off-putting. He slaps his mum and he seems confused and not charming at all.”
Studio executives at Warner Brothers and co-producers Legendary Pictures are considering a reshoot, says Devin Faraci, editor of Hollywood industry news site Cinema Happenings Under Development.
“We’ve heard that Spike is very unhappy with Warner Brothers. Nobody knows 100% what will happen, whether they’ll reshoot, whether Jonze will take his name off it.”
The film’s release has been delayed several times – it was originally going to open this May, then October – and is now scheduled for 2009.
The film is “far too scary” in places for younger children, says Brian Collins, a web editor who saw a test screening in December last year in Pasadena, California.
“One of the monsters you like throughout the movie goes crazy and has his own tantrum and starts tearing down trees and attacking other monsters,” Collins says.
“It doesn’t look like a kids’ movie, it’s not all bright colours. It’s got a real dry look. It was an adult-oriented movie disguised as a kids’ film. If they make it cute and fluffy for four-year-olds, we’ll lose something really interesting.”
“It’s not actually a kids’ film,” agrees a member of the Melbourne crew. “It would find a great audience with an older crowd. It is a little bit dark – but kids need to be exposed to horrible things so they can work them out. There’s not a single fart joke in the script – they’re not pandering to a typical market. And there’s no violence either like kids’ films (often show), full of guns and blowing up stuff.”
The book’s author, Maurice Sendak, has vetoed many attempts over the years to turn it into a film, but told The New York Times he was “in love with” the current version.
“If Spike and Dave do not do this movie now, I would just as soon not see any version of it ever get made.”
The book Where the Wild Things Are got the same negative reaction when it was released, says Albert Ullin, the first bookseller to import the book into Australia in 1963.
“People thought it was too strange and scary. Librarians were very sceptical, a bit reluctant to buy any.
“But once it was on the shelves, it took off quickly.”
Mr Ullin says the darkness is what makes the book such a classic.
“Our dreams as children often are quite scary,” he says, “but we deal with them.”