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Where the Wild Things Are

October 16, 2009

Last night, I had the supreme pleasure of watching Where The Wild Things Are with a friend who works at a movie theater. (They have to watch the prints beforehand to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with them – hard life.  And as a side note, living has become a lot cheaper for me since I’ve been around friends who work at movie theatres and at bars.)  It made me so, so happy – the kind of happy where you’re crying sometimes and happy about it.

As with every film that has the indie/literati/intellectual bloodlines that Wild Things does (Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, Karen O, The Arcade Fire), reviewers are falling into two camps: those who don’t mind the hype and those who do, which correspondingly colors their reviews.  The best description of the film, though, comes from the filmmakers themselves, who – I’m paraphrasing here – said they set out to make a movie not for children or about children but by a child.

Max’s story in the beginning of the film about the walking buildings and the vampires is a reminder of that – a lot of the time, nothing really happens in stories kids tell.  Logic and reality don’t matter, because they’re funkillers; see Judith, who has the most adult voice of all of them and is a total bitch. (For example, things my adult brain thought during the film: “He’d be dying of thirst by now if he was really sailing across the ocean” and “Did Ira make sure those tunnels were structurally sound?”)

One thing’s certain about it: it wasn’t made for children.  It may be appropriate for them, and some of them might even enjoy it, but children weren’t the target audience they had in mind.  The previews before made that painfully obvious – they were the same brightly-colored, fart-joke-filled paycheck movies that Hollywood spits at children, including some movie starring an old-looking Jackie Chan that’s clearly a carbon copy of The Pacifier, God help me. Where the Wild Things Are, on the other hand, is all brown and blues and grays; it’s never frenetic, and the neurosis of the Wild Things seem distinctly adult. (A gallery of movie stills is here.)

A lot of the critical reviewers say that it’s a film made for and by people who are unhappy about growing up – like that’s somehow a bad thing.  I think that’s what makes it so awesome.  I went back and read the Wild Things book after seeing the film, and I discovered that in fact nothing happens.  Here’s a reading of it that’s actually pretty good:

See?  Nothing happens.  And yet clearly a whole generation of kids did just fine filling in the gaps.  The movie is a Neverland of sorts – it’s for all us adults who remember a detailed and rich story that simply never existed and have lost a kid’s ability to extrapolate adventure into infinity.

That’s why I loved it so much – it was beautiful and childlike and wonderful, and I was able to just watch it with an earnest happiness that’s increasingly hard for me to reach.  I’m a child of the internet – snarky, critical, compulsively ironic – and kind of unhappy about it.  College made me a critical thinker, and I’m glad for that, but DAMN I wish I had a switch that could turn it off sometimes.

As a final note, the creation and animation of the wild things is literally perfect.  The real suits give them a reality and weight that animation just can’t manage yet, and the facial animation makes them not just actors in suits.

And I will cry every time I watch the trailer, into infinity.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 9:00 pm

    sorry i didn’t get around to leaving a comment when i first saw this. but i totally agree with your points about this movie. i don’t see anything wrong with being a critical thinker. it helps me enjoy this film a lot more. great work

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  1. Rubber Chicken’s Dojo » Blog Archive » movie review: where the wild things are

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