7
Wild ‘N Out
I have felt for some time that the modern children’s film lacks the balls that children’s films had when I was a kid. Marketing has taken over, broad appeal is key, and it’s all abou
Published on March 15, 2010 | Filed under Review

I have felt for some time that the modern children’s film lacks the balls that children’s films had when I was a kid. Marketing has taken over, broad appeal is key, and it’s all about veneer and less about substance, and the kids are completely unaware that they are being treated like…kids. What I mean by that is they aren’t challenged as I was by the cinema of my youth. However, this is something that seems to be changing recently, and while there is still plenty of soulless crap being processed for the wide-eyed masses, there seems to be a slight movement of challenging kid’s films over the past few years. From what I have heard, some of the more recent Pixar stuff gets into some heavy territory, which is nice because I feel the CG films have been the most lackluster in terms of real substance over the years. Then there are some films that tread darker paths like the recent 9, Coraline, and the reason I am here today, Where the Wild Things Are.

Spike Jonze is an amazing filmmaker that always has my attention based off his past work, and when I first heard that he was directing Where the Wild Things Are, I was pretty excited for it. I have no real fond memories of the book from when I was a kid. I remember it, but not all that well. It was the idea of Jonze doing a children’s movie that had me confident that he would give me something to chew on, something that a ten year old me would have loved, and still would love at the age of 33. With Wild Things, he did just that and he did so with a respect to his audience, knowing their brains aren’t lactose intolerant (?) like much of Hollywood would like to believe.

Often, when people refer to, or speak of Where the Wild Things Are, they say it’s not a movie for children, but a movie about children. That statement makes no sense to me and is frankly a little ridiculous. This is part of the desensitizing of our youth, or dumbing down of America if you will. Saying that just because a film is not easy to digest and may challenge a child makes it not fit for or made for one is just silly and ignorant. If kids aren’t challenged, they will not learn, and Where the Wild Things Are challenges children as well as adults. It works for adults, and does so without cheap jokes told with a wink at the poor parent that is forced to watch the hot new 3-D movie with their child. Children are too overprotected these days and I think back to the films of my youth, like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, or how about Legend? That movie was scary as shit and filled with very dark themes, but I loved it, as did many that were growing up at the time.

This film challenges by even daring to make the main character almost unlikable. Max (Played by a fantastic Max Records) is a bit of a brat and slightly obnoxious, but in general, kids are annoying. Not always, of course, but they can throw temper tantrums and hissy fits and be difficult to control, especially when things aren’t going their way. Max’s anger and frustrations in life are understandable, and they are frustrations that many of us go through at a certain age, but they are what make us mentally stronger. At that age, we are not mature enough to deal with them rationally, so we lash out and act the only way we know how. His dealing with the situation by running away to what appears to be paradise would seem the perfect solution to him. In his imaginary land, he can control what happens and how things are, something he cannot do in real life.

His world of fantasy and reality mirror each other in many ways as far as his problems go, with many of the wild things and their problems all tying into Max’s real life. Max in the real world is upset that his mother (Catherine Keener) has a new boyfriend and this is what causes him to lash out and eventually leave the real world. In the world where everything is wild, the creatures Carrol (James Gandolfini) and K.W. (Lauren Ambrose) are almost like a representation of Max’s parents and Max tries desperately to get them back together. This is Max’s imaginary world, so it is his rules and things should work out his way. This is what is most challenging is that Max cannot change anything and sometimes you have to play with the cards you’re dealt with in life. It also shows that running away from your problems will not solve them…eventually you will have to come back and face them, and learn from them.

That is just one example of the many parallels in Where the Wild Things Are, and to have a film take the eternal struggles and heartaches of youth and flesh them out with the use of fantastical characters is very welcome. It’s honest, there is not a happy ending, per say, It was not in 3-D, the creatures were mainly done with (m)puppets (and so amazingly I might add), and there is not one moment any joke is delivered and meant to wink at the adult viewer. Where the Wild Things Are is for children and adults, which is something that is rare in today’s cinema, and hopefully it inspires some children to want to be challenged more, instead of having shiny keys dangled in front of their faces.

Author:

When god created man, he also created Matt-suzaka, and while this is looked at as a mistake by many, his loyal dance troop, “Gold Explosion,” would feel otherwise. Now, armed with the sword of vengeance and a group of off-the-chain back-up dancers, Matt-suzaka defends humanity at Chuck Norris Ate My Baby.com


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  • FakeShemp

    I agree. My 2nd best film of 2009. BUT, I do have to say, the majority of "critic" types wouldn't have said it's not a movie for children. It's a movie about childhood. Children might not get that. Not saying that they wouldn't like it, I hope I would have. It is grander if you're an adult watching the picture and realizing what you're watching. I can understand it be sorta boring for kids, but would hope that the monsters and shenanigans would keep them interested until they grew up and understood.

  • Matt-suzaka

    Yeah, I think when you look at some of the films from our youth, they too had plenty of boring moments, so maybe we can appreciate it a little more. While it makes me feel old to say, life is so fast paced for kids these days that their attention span is less than kids of the previous generations. One thing that made me happy was learning that my 10-year-old brother loved it and says it's his favorite film. That gave me a lot of faith for some reason and told me a little more about the movie.

  • christine

    Afraid to watch this. Do not want to cry…

  • Matt-suzaka

    You probably will. If I didn't have skin made of steel and eyes made of diamonds, I would have, that's for sure. You should really watch it though – I think you would really enjoy it.

  • Ashlee

    I'm with christine; I'll avoid watching while on my period.

    If it wasn't for Charlie Brown's woeful cynicism or Cathy's realistic expectations I may not be the astute smarty pants I am today. Those CBS dishing evening cartoons were only arguably for adults but some of us kids were watching.

    Even a family film like Beetlejuice was a childhood cinematic milestone, and it's got the layers of an onion. 'Kids stuff' you could easily identify as challenging.

    Like you, I've felt so jaded by the stuff that's out now (my disdain for CGI aside) when Coraline's and Where The Wild Things Are come around, they like, really, seriously stand out.

    I have yet to see both. Tragic, I know. But now I'm even more excited about getting my hands on them.

  • Joe Humphrey

    I totally agree with you. I work in a video store and I'm getting really sick of hearing people bitch about how Where the Wild Things Are is not a movie for kids. I hear it constantly. Where the Wild Things Are is the first movie I've seen in many years that doesn't treat kids like morons.

    I think the most striking thing, to me, about that movie, was the fact that it perfectly encapsulated what it feels like to be a kid. Especially a kid going through difficult life challenges. It's the first movie I've ever seen that shows the powerlessness of being a kid. The complete inability to change the world around you, and how infuriating that feels. Max is a brat, but he's a brat and he acts out because he has no power or influence on his life. He's at mercy of the people around him. That's an incredibly painful and oppressive feeling and it's something that kids deal with all the time. I found it refreshing to see someone acknowledge that in a movie and depict it so perfectly.

    Yeah, it's a dark, depressing movie. But being a kid is often a dark, depressing experience.

  • Matt-suzaka

    Ashlee: Ha for the period comment! I'm with you on the Peanuts and Beetlejuice, both are perfect examples of celluloid that I loved as a kid and still love to this day.

    Those are the types of things that as a kid, you enjoy them for one reason, but as an adult, you get them and enjoy them for a completely different reason. And it was done without cheap jokes too. That's exactly how Where the Wild Things Are is. I think you to will love it.

    Joe: Well said sir, and you got exactly what I got from Where the Wild Things Are. Kids need to be challenged and not treated like they cannot think at all. It really hurts their development when they aren't challenged and being challenged is something that should be a lifelong journey, so why not let it start as early as possible?

    I hear a lot of people say that it's too scary for some kids. I didn't think it was very scary, but being an adult, what would I know. I do know that being afraid is a part of life and to shelter a child from fear, is to hinder their ability to deal with that fear as they grow older and have real things to be afraid of, like death.