Friday, December 18, 2009

The Case for Wild South

From a beloved children’s book of few words to a movie of 2 hours length, Where the Wild Things Are was bound to arouse some criticism. Luckily, it has been ages since I read the book and I was actually mixing up the book with another in my head, so I was able to go into it without a huge amount of baggage (emotionally and intellectually rather than physically, that is).

A large group assembled in the almighty Embassy (thanks Moosetastic) one day after the Lovely Bones premiere to nestle our beloved bottoms in leather chairs and let the whimsy wash over us. Unfortunately, there were children in the row behind us, and the film, while based on a children’s story, was definitely not made with them totally in mind, and as the film went on, the kids got bored and restless. And annoying.

Which is just what the kid in the movie, Max, is at the beginning. He is meant to be shown as a bit of a brat, and the director delivered in spades, with me feeling huge amounts of sympathy for the delightful Catherine Keener (who I always love to watch) as Max’s Mum having to deal with a little pain like Max. But soon, the reality of Max’s existence is left behind as he heads off to the land of the Wild Things, for fun and life lessons aplenty.

The beauty of having a book with few words is how broadly you can interpret the meaning. Is it a story about isolation? Is it a story about discovering yourself? Is it a story about dealing with loss? Is it a story about moving on, and leaving things behind? Is it a story about love and relationships? Is it a story about responsibility? Is it a story about all of these, none of these, or even more? Luckily, the movie is in the hands of a director who loves that kind of ambiguity and able to translate that into a film for everyone.

But not for wee kiddies. As mentioned before, the kids who attended the screening were bored about half way through. This film may be full of big imaginary monsters (beautifully rendered by the way – I thought I saw a Hensen studio mention in the end credits, which might explain their stupendous-ness), and they may play kids games, but there are long tracks where fun and games are doused with the cold water of the ebb and flow relationships. There are some beautiful scenes that will have those with firm memories of the book smiling knowingly (I half smiled), but for kids not really given to that kind of reflection, there won’t really be the sense of appreciation.

Everyone came out of the film with something different. Some left desiring the repeal of the “anti smacking” bill (I hate that term, as it is not what it actually is, but it appears to be the more popular term for it), some left with a sense of warm fuzzies, but everyone left appreciating the film, albeit for different things.

Verdict: Where the Wild Things Are is a bit too adult to appeal to kids and (for me) a bit too kiddie to really have a huge emotional wallop, but it is an amazing looking film with a brilliant cast and characters and direction that took a small book and turned it into something… wild. 7.5 big scary monsters out of 10.

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