Within minutes of the movie, three children beside me were escorted by their parents out of the theatre. Max, the main character, was abusing a cat. The first thing movie goers will notice in this film is that this may not be a movie for children under the age of Max. That is, unless your children are viciously acting destructive despite having the cognitive skills to know better, then they won’t be able to relate to Max in the movie. Such “wild” characteristics usually develop around eight years old. The Max in this film is of a different maturity than the one found in Maurice Sendak’s book. Although the film’s version of Max is not on the pathway of adolescence, he’s right at the footstep looking ahead. This becomes evident as he tries but fails to make any bonds with young teens, including his older sister. In one scene, the wild Max is injured by an even wilder teenage boy who jumps on the ‘igloo’ that Max is hiding under. It was at this scene that I noticed two other children were escorted out of the theatre by their parents. And sure enough, the adult themes began appearing unbeknownst to children. This was when I began to enjoy the film.
The key to appreciating Where the Wild Things Are is in this statement by director Jonze: “I didn’t set out to make a children’s movie; I set out to make a movie about childhood.”
It’s worth bearing in mind if you’re intending to take a very young tot to see this film. What Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers have wrought in adapting Maurice Sendak’s 1963 picture book perennial is something so primal, and so in touch with the rough “id” of youthful fantasy, it would be easy to dismiss as a simple kid’s story.
Then there is this review as well from “kids in mind”: http://kids-in-mind.com/w/wherethewildthingsare.htm
Sendak’s book is a witty and concise (338 words) allegory about a high-spirited five-year-old’s rage, fantasy and ultimate mastery childhood emotions. The Jonze movie, co-written by novelist Dave Eggers ( A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ) is an exploration of childhood sorrow. It’s about an emotionally neglected nine-year-old (Max Records) who exhibits behaviour problems as he witnesses his parents’ divorce. Forget about Max’s cry to let the wild rumpus start. This feels more like: “Let the grief-counselling ensue.”
Jonze and Eggers have a firm grasp on the way a child’s joy can quickly turn to tears, but they squeeze hard and can’t let go. The film is essentially a parade of negative emotions – sorrow, anger, jealousy, regret. And the choppy dialogue, at times so cryptic that it borders on Beckett, keeps the Wild Things from becoming full-fledged characters.
“Where the Wild Things Are” clearly wants to be a children’s movie that isn’t really a children’s movie, and it succeeds. That’s great news – if you’re an adult.
I’m very curious to see how they have “adapted” the book so I’m sure I will see the movie.
How old are your kids and will you be taking them to see this?