Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I groaned. I thought the idea of turning this brief picture book into a full-length movie was irredeemably dumb. It just didn't seem like the material was there.

I was wrong. So very, very wrong. In no way did this movie lack material.

I thought Spike Jonez did such an excellent job projecting the spirit and imagery of the book onto a fleshed-out, adult retelling of the story. And be not mistaken. This is a movie for adults. Unlike Up, where children and parents are almost guaranteed to adore the movie equally, if not for different reasons, children may not like this movie at all. It's at times a remarkably harsh look at loneliness, anger, the need to be loved and acknowledged, jealousy and down right terror.

Seriously, the DVD should include a pamphlet summarizing Kierkegaard's "The Anxiety of Lowliness." When the tagline says "There's one in all of us," it doesn't mean so much that there's a zany fuzzy thing inside all of us that loves to dance. It means there's a facet of our personality that is cripplingly insecure, jealous, exclusive or hateful. The main question of the movie is how do we maintain happiness in a society full of broken individuals. Good question. Although there's hope for it on the shattered island of Wild Things, there isn't a clear resolution. But although the resolution is absent, the answer is clear: love (as we're told in the end by a smashingly good song by Karen O and the Kids).

I forgot to mention that the movie is hilarious. I had several uncontrollable laugh-out-loud moments. Keep an eye out for Bob and Terry.

And now a word about the technical aspect of the movie. CG is employed to a minimum, and I love that. To me, computer effects almost always look cheap, and they date way too fast. I was floored just like everybody else when I saw Gollum from The Lord of the Rings trilogy five years ago, but he already looks like a relic from the neolithic age. The Wild Things are actors in suits, and I honestly don't know how they did it. They had those things moving so fast and flying into each other and into wood huts and all kinds of other crazy stuff I would never dream of doing in a huge suit like that. They had some serious momentum.

In conclusion, this is a great, great movie. It rewards serious analysis, it's funny and it just looks so good. I don't think taking a kid to see this is necessarily a bad idea. Frankly, there are some scary sequences with the Wild Things which younger kids may not be able to take. But it depends on the kid. I honestly don't know what I would have thought of this movie as a child. I sure do love it now, though.


  1. Thanks for the tip. I too thought this movie would be lame, but maybe I'll go see it now.

    I want to read your review of 'Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs.' It's almost in the exact same category: short, simple plot of a picture book turned major motion picture.

  2. Problem is, I have not seen Cloudy. When I do I'll be sure to toss a review up, though.