REVIEW: Where the Wild Things Are

29 10 2009

Wild ThingsLet me start off by addressing the chief complaint with “Where the Wild Things Are“: I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about how it is not a kids movie.  It is.  But director Spike Jonze is an auteur, not willing to follow the conventions of typical light, kiddie fare.  He has made a movie that portrays childhood with blunt and sometimes brutal honesty.  He dares to show the bleaker side of being 9 years old, desiring to be grown up but unequipped and somewhat oblivious to handle the realities of the adult world.  The reason there is such an outcry is because movies for children have been so dumbed down that childhood itself is just reduced to the fun and games.  But when a movie like “Where the Wild Things” comes along and shows the full spectrum, American families mistake it for pompous art-house fare in disguise.

Writers Jonze and Dave Eggers (“Away We Go”) had all of 350 words from which to create a plot that could sustain a feature length film.  What the two spawn is nothing short of miraculous, paying the correct amount of respect to Sendak’s book while conceiving a new story that deserves to be remembered for years to come.  Rather than bore you with a plot summary that you could just as easily find on Wikipedia or Fandango, I will liken it to something that most cinephiles will recognize.  “Where the Wild Things Are” is like “The Graduate” of kids movies.  You might scoff at this comparison at first glance, but stick with me.  A boy on the cusp of two worlds is forced to confront the actualities of coming of age.  Yet this responsibility frightens him, and he reverts to the devices of immaturity associated with youth and naiveté.  Although each deals with in their own way – Benjamin Braddock with sexual affairs and Max by escaping into a place he could only imagine – both have to accept this juvenility is not a viable way to live, a revelation that occurs mainly because of the people around them.  Ultimately, he takes the steps towards entering the world which he once feared.  But the last shots of both movies suggest that with one foot in the door, they approach further only with great trepidation.
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