Friday, January 15, 2010

Wild Things and Mild Things

I recently saw "Where the Wild Things Are," finally. It was a Sunday afternoon matinee in a bargain theatre. The surroundings and atmosphere were not ideal, but I was ready for a film that I had been wanting to see for a long time.

I had further complications because I had already had a negative review from a good friend. She said that the movie was not as good as the movie. (I have yet to see a movie that lived up to the book it was based upon.) I had a deep desire to see the film, but I was apprehensive.

I was not disappointed. This is the best movie I've seen so far this year, and I am fairly certain it will make my year-end best of list. The question of whether or not this movie is better than the book is relatively moot. The film is only based upon Maurice Sendak's classic children's book. It is a completely different story. The characters are familiar. Max, a small boy, gets in trouble with his busy mom. She has a man over for dinner and does not have time for her son's shenanigans. An over-excited Max gets sent to his room, but instead makes a run for it. Max finds a boat, hops aboard and his adventure begins.

When Max arrives at the land where all the creatures live it is a revelation for the viewer. It is not cartoon-ish and story-book like. It seems like a completely realistic world with wild things who are more realistic than any puppet/muppet/ animatronic thing we have seen to date. Each wild thing has his own personality and name. They are not generic filler, or extras, in this movie. The Wild Things are intricately involved and intrinsic to the plot.

In one sense the Wild Things serve as playmates for Max. They are peers for Max. The island is filled with 8-year olds, it just so happens that some of them are giant, scary-looking monsters. But everyone is sweet, gentle reminder of the humanity of all of us.

While watching Where the Wild Things Are I was struck by several things.
  • All of us has an 8-year old somewhere inside of us. I wanted to go play with the wild things. I wanted to sleep in a "big pile." I longed to get to know the real KW. I wanted to have Max's group of friends.
  • Sometimes the greatest idea has tragedy as its inevitable end. As soon as Max recommended the dirt clod game, we knew that someone would get hurt. Someone was going to get angry. Someone would go home mad.
  • There is a bully in every crowd. Carol is a sweet, lovable creature who bullies others to get his way. In fact, he may be a racist. Either way, he is not all that he seems. There are always people who feel that they have to get their own way. We have to learn how to deal with difficult people.
  • Mom is always there and she loves us. The enduring story of the book and the movie is that in all our alone-ness, in all our running away for difficult circumstances, in every way we try to take care of our own problems, someone (Mom? God?) loves us and will make sure that everything turns out alright.
Go see this movie. Right now. Why are you still reading this. You should be on your way to the theatre.

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