Monday, November 9, 2009

Where the Wild Things Aren't

This will be the first of many movie reviews on the blog. After I saw "Where the Wild Things Are" I felt the need to say a little something about it. I'm also going to assume those that read this review have also read the book at some point or know what it's about enough that I don't have to worry about spoilers.

First of all, let me just say that I enjoyed the book. I remember the teacher of my kindergarten class reading this book to us and I really liked the wild things. They were monsters but they weren't scary monsters. The art was great and the story was fun. So, naturally when a movie came out for a book that I enjoyed from my childhood, I had an interest in seeing it. Still, it's a book that's only a few pages long, so I was also skeptical. Still, as I saw more and more previews for it, I decided that I really wanted to see it. It looked like it was going to be very good and I've always thought that real suits combined with digital effects are more convincing than just digital effects alone.

Even though this movie had good qualities, I feel that I wasted my money. The first half of the movie was good. The kid playing Max was perfect, the acting was good, and there was a darker tone to this movie that I really liked. Max is clearly depressed, feeling like his family is falling apart. His sister acts like she doesn't care about him, his Mother doesn't discipline him, and it's implied that she's divorced and dating. Still, the movie took a turn for the worse when, instead of going to bed without supper (like he does when his Mother punishes him in the book), Max decides to run away. He finds a boat and sails off, ending up on the island where the wild things are.

The wild things seem to represent the most dysfunctional family you could possibly have. Every one of them has a serious psychological disorder from anger management issues to schizophrenia. Naturally, their family was falling apart as well, so they make Max their king, hoping he'll bring the family back together again. (They actually take the crown and scepter from a pile of bones in their campsite, implying they've eaten their other kings, another dark twist that I enjoyed.)

Max makes things worse through his rule. He tries to bring them together, but it seems no matter what he does, the issues they have run too deeply to be brought together by something a child would do. So, one night, Carol, Max's best friend out of the wild things, decides he's going to eat Max and tear down everything they've been working on together. Max escapes by hiding (long story short) and the next day decides to sail away from the island. The wild things are sad to see him leave, but they wave goodbye on the shoreline. Still, what bothered me, was nothing was resolved. They were all just the same dysfunctional family but you didn't know if Carol and his girlfriend got back together or decided to split forever. There was such a bad fight the previous night that one of the wild things had lost an arm, and it was clear things were still worse than they were before.

In essence, Max learned nothing. He had problems at home and ran away, then had problems with the wild things and ran away from them as well. It isn't implied that he misses his mother like he does in the book, it's implied he's running for his life so he doesn't get eaten.

Still, the worst part was yet to come. You assume that the entire scenario of the wild things takes place in his mind. However, when he gets home, while he does seem happy to see his Mother he doesn't apologize, and he doesn't get punished. Not only is the soup still hot, but he gets a large slice of chocolate cake and a tall glass of milk. The point behind the original story was that the kid was punished, imagined himself in a different place, and then was grateful for what he had when he "got back." He didn't apologize, but he didn't need to apologize because he had already been punished. In this story, the moral seems to be "run away from your problems and everything will be okay." He didn't learn anything, the Mother didn't learn anything, and all of the conflicts shown in the movie were never confronted. The end.

I would recommend renting this movie from Netflix when it comes out, but don't waste your money, and definitely don't show it to your children. It's worth seeing because of the special effects and the dark atmosphere created by the movie. However, be prepared for a letdown in the end when nothing is resolved. It might just be my opinion, but I believe movies should have a conclusion. Just a thought.

I was so disappointed that I had to see a movie last weekend to make up for it. I saw Zombieland, which I'm pleased to say was everything I hoped it would be and a little bit more. I'll write a review on it in a few days.

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