Sunday, April 11, 2010
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Directed by Spike Jonze. I was genuinely affected by the opening 20 minutes of this movie, when it is not like a high budget "H.R. Pufnstuf." I imagine some folks saw it the other way around, but by 40 minutes into this I found myself wishing the land of the Wild Things was more like that movie where Denise Richards and Neve Campbell run around in cutoffs.
The problem is simple: because this is based on an arguably perfect story of only 350-words there isn't a hell of a lot for these CGI puppets to do that won't over-complicate things. In the original tale a boy named Max uses his imagination to get out of his head because he needs a break. Eventually he calms down, reassured that his expressions are normal and healthy, and his home is a safe place. In this film, director Spike Jonze makes Max's revelation more elaborate, ultimately having Max identify with both the joys and pressures associated with leading a family. The wild things represent people in his real life -- including himself -- and are dealing with metaphors for the developmental stages and struggles he and his family are working through at home.
Max spends many days with the wild things as their king, adapts their social structure, and experiences various successes and failures as their leader. Ultimately he is forced to identify with how much his mother's life sucks as a single mother. He goes home.
It all seems kind of unnecessary. For kids this is dark and boring. For grown-ups the additional issues are as an excuse to fill things out. Coming soon, a long-awaited feature-length adaptation of "Green Eggs and Ham" that's really an allegory about the consequences of mass-consumption of genetically modified foods.