Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book is a divisive masterpiece. Many people I know hate the film, while just as many love the film. I side very much with the camp who like the film.

Sendak’s original is hardly the material for a feature film, it’s simply a few lines of text and lots of pages of Sendak’s illustrations. If you were to be letter faithful to the book you’d have a fifteen minute movie…which is what you see in the Scholastic Books animated adaption narrated by Peter Shickle.

I am a devoted groupie for the original book. I waited for HOURS on line to get a signed copy of the book when Sendak finally relented and agreed to do some signings (he wouldn’t sign anything for anyone- with a few exceptions- for decades). There is nothing I will wait for hours in line, especially for a book signing. Sendak and Wild Things was something I had to wait for since the book is part of my DNA.

As a devote groupie I was kind of afraid of what Jonze was doing to the story. The clips and stills filled me with mixed emotion. Some of it seemed so right and other things seemed to be a miss. What would we finally get? What would we get since the film was delayed a couple of times as test screenings went sideways and they had to reshoot and recut things?

I was afraid.

And then I saw the film and I was floored. The film exceeded my expectations.

The story as written is about Max who misbehaves and is sent to his room with out dinner as punishment. He then drifts off to where the wild things are where he rules over them until he gets home sick and decides to go home where he finds his mom has left him dinner.

Spike Jonze expanded the film and book ended it as the story of a young boy coming to terms with life and growing up. There is more going on then just Max and the monsters, which annoyed the piss out of a few people I know. This was no longer a child’s story but something else, a story about a child. No longer a tale of wonder it was a bitter sweet film about the lose of innocence and growing up. That wasn’t their beloved children’s book.

Honestly it's not my beloved children's book either, instead it is a work of art that uses the book as a launching off point. As I said before you can't just do the book because there isn't enough there. You would have to be a complete and utter fool to assume that they wouldn't have added more. I have no problem with what they did. I even don't mind the change of the lush jungles of the original to a mostly desert setting.

To me the film is what really happened to Max, while the book is the way Max remembered it as an adult. Time heals all wounds and it radically colors everything we see and experience. Look at the film then at the book and you'll see I'm right.

I don't know what else to say beyond see this film.

I should probably add that I don't know if the film is for kids. I know they'll appreciate the monsters when they show up, but at the same time they are not going to get whats really going on... then again kids are smarter than we think...

Really see this film...

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