Where the Wild Things Are

 

Where the Wild Things Are

***1/2

 

One thing’s for sure: “Where the Wild Things Are” is not a children’s movie. I am not exaggerating when I say that “Inglourious Basterds” is more geared for young children than this movie. At least Tarantino’s summer blockbuster has characters with simple, comprehensible motivations.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is about a nine year old boy named Max. Unlike most movie children, Max is neither brilliant nor well-behaved. He is a rambunctious little monster sometimes.

One night he goes too far and orders his mom to make him dinner and then bites her when she does not go along with his demands. Upset with his mother – and himself – Max runs off into the night.

He takes a mysterious boat ride to the land of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are gigantic creatures that frolic in the woods all day like animals, but suffer with the same feelings of insecurity, confusion, and loneliness that Max does.

Max boasts that he has powers that can cure sadness and the Wild Things make him their king. Max discovers that being the leader is not the solution to his troubles and they all discover that sadness is not easy to eliminate.

In the end, Max and the Wild Things learn that the best a creature can do is cling to the ones he loves to try to make it through tough times.

There are not many children out there that will be able to really follow along with writer/director Spike Jonze’s subtle agenda.

There was exactly one kid at the showing of “Where the Wild Things Are” that I attended and – let me tell you – he did NOT enjoy the picture. From the opening frame the child bombarded his father with questions. “Why is Max angry?” “Are the Wild Things real?”

I quickly changed seats so I could watch the movie in peace. But I have to figure that the boy never stopped asking questions or received any satisfactory answers. The kid probably is used to watching children’s movies, where there are logical causes and events, and crises are completely contrived and inevitably resolved.

In direct contrast, “Where the Wild Things Are” is about childhood. Childhood for most kids isn’t really about events, which are largely out of their control and often don’t make sense because they don’t understand the way the world works yet.

Childhood is about unbridled emotion: carefree joy, followed by furious anger and helpless despair – often during the same hour.

When I was a kid I didn’t even understand that happiness is the goal of life, never mind how to achieve it. My imagination was much stronger than it is now, while my level of contentment was in a constant state of flux. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I’m even more sure now that “Where the Wild Things Are” so accurately depicted the emotions that I felt growing up.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is one of the most original and insightful films about childhood that I have ever seen. But it definitely isn’t for children.

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