Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a few bad movies (Bright Star, for example, which I thought would never end) and a few mediocre ones (Whip It and Coco Before Chanel), but the movie to which I’d been looking forward was Where the Wild Things Are.The book was one I’d read to my kids when they were little and I’d actually even enjoyed the video of it (made using pictures from the book) and In the Night Kitchen that they’d watched over and over, so I was excited to hear Maurice Sendak say that the movie was true to the book and that he was pleased with the overall results of the picture.
Saturday evening we went to see the film. My reaction to it was mixed. I thought that the way in which the Wild Things were brought to life in the film was amazing. The technology used meant they each developed a unique personality and appearance while holding true to Sendak’s drawings. That was a big plus for me, since it was great fun to see them “brought to life.” And the individual actors who voiced the Wild Things also did a great job strengthening the individuality of each.
On the other hand, there were things I definitely didn’t like about the film. The first was that each Wild Thing was given a name. A name is something that tames, that gives the entity knowing the name power over the one whose name is known. A Wild Thing doesn’t need and shouldn’t want a name, it seems to me. And then, though the names weren’t used in traditional gender ways, giving them very human sounding names—Carol, KW, Eli—made the naming seem even less appropriate for a WILD creature.
There were two other additions to the book’s storyline that I didn’t like. The first was that, instead of being sent to his room for acting wild and then having the room change into another place, Max runs away from his mother when she tries to get him to stop what he’s doing. We actually see her running after him street after street, as he gains an advantage and eventually loses her. And, at the end of the movie, when Max returns from his journey, we again see her at home, frantic as she waits for him. The film made me sympathize with Max’s mother (not necessarily a bad thing) in a way that I never had while reading the book. But it also suggested that running away from your parents when they ask you to stop doing something inappropriate can be a good thing. The other thing that displeased me was an addition to the storyline made after the Wild Rumpus, when the Wild Things want something fun to do. Max orders them to have a dirt-clod war, in which each team bombs the other with large pieces of dirt. In the process, one of the Wild Things gets hurt, but that’s largely ignored because everyone else is enjoying throwing the dirt. The addition seemed both unnecessary—why have such violence added to a wonderful story—and a bad precedent for a children’s film.