Richard’s Year of Movies — Where the Wild Things Are

I think I was cheated as a kid.  I didn’t trek halfway across the state to see a dead body.  I didn’t find a hidden pirate ship under my town.  And I sure as hell didn’t find an alien in my garage.  Sure, I had some ups and downs, but my adolescence wasn’t some psychological minefield where I angst-riddenly wondered about my place in life.  I was too busy watching Star Wars and playing D&D and, you know, being a kid.

Which is maybe why I admired Where the Wild Things Are more than I loved it.  It’s certainly a well-crafted film, and it does a good job exploring its themes, but it didn’t really resonate with me because I simply didn’t experience the kind of childhood Max did.  All the reviews that said, “This film nails what being a kid is all about” made me scratch my head a little, because if that’s what childhood is supposed to be like, it’s amazing we don’t all end up at the top of a clock tower picking targets.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say the film had zero effect on me.  I got what was going on, and I admit, I teared up a little when Max left the island and Carol ran up at the last minute to howl his goodbye.  But that emotion came from their relationship, not from Max learning about himself and working his issues out.  And really, while I’ve never had to deal with losing a parent (either through divorce or death), I think Max’s behavior early in the film makes him a little hard to sympathize with.

I think what it ultimately comes down to for me is, yet again, a book that’s barely 40 pages gets hampered with backstory.  They did it with the Grinch, and they do it here.  Some stories just don’t need to be expanded.  There’s a beauty in their brevity and simplicity that no amount of quality craftsmanship and thought can match.  Some things are better left unadapted.

Maybe when I have kids, this’ll click a little more with me.  Like I said, it’s not a bad film, but it just didn’t grab me on an emotional level.  Probably should have gotten lost in the woods more as a kid.


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