"Taming the Wild Beast Within"
What You Need To Know:
Director Spike Jonze (“Jones”) captures the magic for which the original children’s book is known. The cast is amazing, especially Max Records as Max and James Gandolfini as the lead Wild Thing. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is marketed for children, but it is clearly made for teenagers and adults to explore allegorical psychological issues. In the end, love and family bonds overcome anger, bitterness and rebellion.
(BBB, C, L, VV, A, M) Very strong moral worldview with redemptive premise in which love, family, and friendship are paramount and overcome anger, bitterness, and rebellion; one “d” word, one possible “h” word and one light exclamatory profanity (My God); violence, at times somewhat strong and/or startling, includes sometimes scary creatures and older children crush igloo on young boy, boy bites his mother, Wild Things threaten to eat boy, playful fighting in one extensive sequence, Wild Thing destroys huts, snowball fight, one Wild Thing rips another’s arm off in a long shot (though no blood is shown, the event is still very shocking and unexpected); no sexual situations, but man and woman flirt; no nudity; woman and her boyfriend drink a glass of wine, but no drunkenness; no smoking; and, boy lies to avoid being eaten and exaggerates, but truth comes out in the end, boy rebels against mother at a crucial moment but situation is eventually resolved happily, anger issues are overcome, and teacher tells young schoolchildren the sun will eventually explode and global warming may destroy humanity, but the movie seems to mock his dire prognosis.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is a high quality movie about a boy named Max who wishes to escape to a world where anything you want to happen will happen. After being bullied by his older sister’s friends and pushed aside because of his mother’s new boyfriend, Max lashes out and bites his mother on the shoulder. Furious, she screams that he is out of control, and he runs away in hopes of finding a better family who will appreciate him.
Max discovers a small boat along the river of his hometown and sets out on his new adventure. Soon the water expands to a vast ocean, and he finds himself on a strange island inhabited by large untamed creatures, appropriately called “the Wild Things.” In order to protect himself from the Wild Things, Max pretends he has special powers. Thus, instead of being the picked-on little brother, he becomes the King of the Island, the Owner of the World, and instead of being the ignored son, he is adored and respected. In turn, the Wild Things get what they want: purpose, meaning and love.
The personal conflicts between the Wild Things don’t completely disappear, however. In the end, Max and the others must realize that true love is found in the family, despite our differences. Though we don’t always feel as such, nothing can replace the love of a parent, a sibling, or a friend.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE boasts an amazing cast. Young Max Records depicts a believable Max who draws sympathy, even when his character is being a nuisance. He is the relatable element for every adult’s inner child. Catherine Keener plays a convincing mother, and James Gandolfini shines as the voice of the Wild Thing named Carol. Curiously, Mark Ruffalo was heavily hyped for this movie, but he has just one scene as the mother’s boyfriend and only a handful of lines. An actor of this caliber was certainly underutilized and could have been used to further expand the tension between Max and his mother.
Spike Jonze was definitely the right choice as director. The visual style is very reminiscent of Mr. Sendak’s original book, on which this movie is based. Somehow, he captures the magic and authenticity that made the book famous. The Wild Things look real and convincing, and despite their inhuman faces, they are wonderful characters in their own right, each with a distinct personality.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is marketed as a movie for children, but it is clearly made for teenagers and adults to revisit their childhood fears and anxieties. Some scenes are far too intense for young children. Many of the monsters have trouble controlling their emotions, and one even rips his friend’s arm off in a bout of frustration. Though no blood is depicted, and the victim recovers quickly, the scene is unexpected and disturbing, given the main story’s playful nature.
The language is very light, with one obscenity by Max’s mother and one light exclamatory profanity. The mother and her boyfriend drink wine, but no one gets drunk. Overall, this is a wonderful allegorical movie for teenagers and adults, with an emphasis on love, family, and friendship overcoming anger, bitterness and rebellion.