Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are may be a beloved classic, but with just 338 words and an unruly kid who hangs with a group of gloomy, hard-partying monsters at its center, it doesn’t sound like old-fashioned family fun. No wonder, then, that Warner Bros. is concerned that its $75 million film adaptation might not become the blockbuster it needs. The movie — which has been in development at various studios since 1992 — will miss its original release date this October 2008, and now director Spike Jonze, who is best known for offbeat, grown-up fare such as Being John Malkovich, is about to begin a round of reshoots. In addition, sources inside the studio and around Hollywood tell EW the production is ”deeply troubled.”
The problems began at the end of last year, when Jonze showed early versions to Warner execs. According to sources, they told him that his take was too dark for its target audience. Wild Things producer John Carls insists ”there is nothing inappropriate for a child,” but bloggers fueled the bad buzz with reports that youngsters cried during a public research screening last December. All of that prompted Warner to request significant changes to the script (penned by Jonze and author Dave Eggers) from Alvin and the Chipmunks screenwriter Jon Vitti. Carls says that the script’s tone will not change; rather, he explains, ”we’re inserting new moments that will make the individual Wild Things’ story lines more clear.” Warner, meanwhile, issued this statement: ”We have always believed in and continue to support this film. As with all films, postproduction is an evolving process, and Spike Jonze will be shooting some additional scenes.”
Since he doesn’t have authority over the final cut, fans are encouraging Jonze to leak his version online if the studio ends up removing him from the film. Carls says that won’t happen, and adds that Sendak himself is ”very pleased with what Spike has accomplished thus far.” Considering that Warner is still smarting from the abysmal debut of its kid-targeted Speed Racer adaptation, perhaps its execs should hope that the master of children’s storytelling is right.