Spike Jonze has brought a beloved children’s book to the big screen with Where the Wild Things Are. Spinning a tale around Maurice Sendak’s picture book tale, the ultra short story is turned into a hour and thirty four minutes “children’s” film. Seeing the previews for the film, I was enchanted by the translation of the characters into live action figures, and I rushed to see the film.
Max Records plays the role of Max in the film, and does a brilliant job of it. His emotions are worn on his sleeve and his face is constant in motion as these emotions play out across it. For such a young actor, he shows subtle emotions like a seasoned pro. His overworked, stressed out, single mother is played by Catherine Keener. She shows empathy in the beginning as she comes home to a depressed son, who had been hurt by his sister’s friends, and abandoned by his sister. Later she becomes insensitive to her son’s needs as she flirts with a boyfriend downstairs, as her son is starving for her attention in his room. This becomes a vehicle to justify Max’s acting out, and his eventual flight from his home.
As a parent, I have to say that it seems as though Spike Jonze cannot be a parent. He does things in this film that kept making my eyebrows raise. When Max sails away to the far away island where the Wild Things are, he meets Carol, K.W., Alexander, Ira, Douglas, and more. Carol is the calm, steady, sharing friend, while K.W. is enthusiastic, jealous, grumpy, and unpredictable.
Echoing an earlier snowball fight at Max’s home, the “wild things” have a massive and violent dirt clod fight. Douglas, the goat, ends up with a gash on his neck, Carol injures K.W. when she steps on his face, and one of the other characters injures his eye. I watched these scenes wondering what the heck Spike Jonze was thinking, when he created these scenes. With Where the Wild Things Are aimed at very young children, all I could think about was how many children would be injured in the future as they rush out to throw dirt clods at their friends. Maybe I’m too much of a mom… but I don’t really get it, any more than I understood why Jim Carey was shown eating glass when he played the Grinch. Very young children mimic everything! That’s how they learn.
When Max jumps up on the counter in the kitchen and throws a tantrum, there are undoubtedly kids that will do the same thing. Of course, this is a fairly innocent example, and one that most parents can head off at the pass, or diffuse when it occurs. On the other hand, dirt clod throwing, stepping on the face of a friend, K.W.’s really horrific outburst, which results with him ripping off Ira’s wing, or Carol’s action of throwing stones at her two owl friends (and saying that they liked being knocked out of the air with big stones) are behaviors that may be much more difficult to diffuse, and much more dangerous if acted out.
[ad name=”Google Adsense-bottom”]Although there are some slight consequences shown in the film, many of them don’t match the severity of the precipitating event. After the dirt clod fight Max sits down with Alexander, and notices a gash on his neck. Max asks if it happened as a result of the dirt clod battle, and when he discovers it was he seems a little sad, but that’s all. He doesn’t help Alexander bandage the injury, or help him in any other way. He simply talks with him a bit.
Likewise, when Douglas has his wing pulled out of the socket by K.W., he shouts that it was his “favorite arm,” and through the remainder of the movie he has a stick in place of one of his wings. There is an implied consequence, but not a real one. We see that Douglas now has to use a stick for an arm, but he tells K.W. that it’s all right, when he does a half-hearted apology.
The wonderful things that occur on the Wild Things’ island came in the form of the miniature world created by Carol, and the amazing structures that all of the creatures make with Max. Building from their imaginations, and making their dream structures take shape in the real world was wonderful. Playing to his friend’s strengths, like Ira’s ability to make great holes, all of the characters pitch in to create something truly amazing. I especially loved Douglas’ perch next to the sphere.
When Max eventually does home, I was again disturbed by the lack of consequences in the film. Max’s mom is waiting at home, and she makes him dinner. She never voices how horribly worried she was when he ran away. Although quite a few days appear to have passed, she doesn’t mention any of this to Max. His mother just sits watching him eat dinner, until she oddly falls asleep at the table as the movie ends. Sorry, but I think this is really odd.
Although I think Spike Jonze created a fascinating world that was interesting to visit for a couple of hours, I think that parents need to use some judgment before taking their children to this one. Very young children will be scared by a lot of this film. Although the movie is based on a picture book aimed at toddlers, the movie is aimed quite a bit higher. Regardless of the age of your children, if you take them to see Where the Wild Things Are, be prepared to have some discussions with your kids about behavior and the consequences of their actions in the real world.
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- David Kirkeby, “Where the Wild Things Are.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom. 6 March 2017, 13:21 UTC. . 20 Aug 2018 <http://pointofviewreviews.com/where-the-wild-things-are/>.
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- David Kirkeby, “Where the Wild Things Are.” Point Of View Reviews- Movie reviews by DW Kirkeby, and more, from ClassBrain's Movies in the Classroom, http://pointofviewreviews.com/where-the-wild-things-are/ [accessed August 20, 2018].