Yesterday I took my kids to see the film adaptation of Maurice Sendek's classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are. I was a bit skeptical. The monsters in the commercial looked a bit spooky and I couldn't fathom how they could turn the story plot from the book into an entertaining movie. I won't give away the plot but suffice to say it's fairly basic.
After reading a positive review in the NY Times though, and with buckets of rain falling all day, and with a bunch of kids looking desperate for a movie, I took the plunge. So was it worth it?
No. First, let me say that this is not really a children's movie. The movie opens with the main character Max running wild, like a wild thing, chasing a dog through the house. It's a bit startling and while I get the connection between his animal-like behavior here and the eventual meeting with the wild things, it's not exactly kid-fare.
The story followsMax, a lonely, rather wild child who escapes to an island filled with large, wild creatures. The leader of this clan is a monster thing named Carol. Carol though seems to be a male monster. I'm sure the gender switch has some significance but it went right over my head. My kid's didn't seem to catch it or care. The Wild Things elect Max their King and movie follows how Max tries to make their lives better. The highlight of the movie, the kids told me, was the dirt war, in which the monsters pelt each other with dirt balls.
In the process of living with the ,monsters, Max learns that being wild has a price - hurt bodies, hurt feelings, disappointment, etc. In the end, he leaves the island a bit chastened and runs home to his mother a reformed and less wild boy.
I think the themes of growing up, controlling your emotions, not hurting others are good ones but I think they flew over the kids' heads. The worst part though, is that the movie plods on without any real plot. My seven-year-old asked me many times when the movie was going to be over. To me, that's the sign that a kid's movie has missed its mark.