Monday, October 19, 2009

. . . and it was still hot.

I am aware that you can’t enter any establishment which caters to kid clientele without running straight into some piece of marketing for Where the Wild Things Are. Maybe you are sick and tired of it by now. Maybe you’re thinking, “Enough already with the Wild Things blitz!” Maybe you’re thinking that the movie couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.

It totally does.

Where the Wild Things Are rocked my socks off. Knocked me off my feet. Bewitched bothered and bewildered was


Here’s what’s so great about it:

  1. Max Records, the kid who plays Max is pitch perfect. Not one of these Culkin-types. Natural and un-Hollywoodized and totally not precious at all. And infinitely lovable.
  2. The wild things look real and fantastical at the same time! I’m not a big fan of CGI but used with real puppets, it has a terrific effect of making them so human-seeming, with sad eyes. I was wowed.
  3. It is visually spectacular. Every shot is like a painting.
  4. Jonze really honors the story but lends a fresh, dynamic perspective. He doesn’t treat the story with kid gloves at all, and allows himself to use it as a launching pad. Purists will not like it, although I’m not sure how you could make aWild Things movie a purist would like. I have to confess, I did balk – out loud – when instead of having the forest grow and grow and grow in Max’s room, Jonze has Max running out of the house, away from his mother, into a nearby forest. I was counting on seeing the walls becoming the world all around. But in Jonze’s version of the story, you don’t get the “I was dreaming all along!” Wizard of Oz ending that Sendak suggests. Instead, there’s nothing to rule out the idea that Max’s adventure really happened, and hey, I’m a fan of magic realism, particularly in kid’s books, so I dig that. When Max returns home after his adventure, it’s his mother, not a hot supper, that’s waiting for him, but the scene which follows, the last scene of the movie is so true to the heart of the book I sobbed and sobbed. Jonze has Max and his mom hug and then cuts to Max at the kitchen table, scarfing down a big piece of chocolate cake and milk while his mther leans on the table, cheek on her hand, and just watches her boy with the adoration and gratitude and peacefulness that we all experience when our kids come home.

Holy shit, it was good.

I wouldn’t bring young kids, though. David and I were dying to bring Primo, who has loved the book as much as I did when I was a girl. But we quickly realized there was too much that was sad and serious and scary about it – nobody gets hurt and the wild things are friendly but they are feral, after all, and there are plenty of moments of real tension where you wonder if Max is going to be OK. Plus, I think it’s slow and serious enough that a little kid would be bored. There were two kids, preschool–aged, in our theater and by the ending they were pretty restless.

I think my husband puts it best:

“Not a kid flick by any stretch or leap. But parents should go -you will love the fuck out of it. Jonze rocks the hiz-ouse and Sendak started the revolution.”