Max is feral; Max is free,
As wild as he wants to be.
He much prefers his fantasy
To real-world life and pain.
He’s jealous of his sister’s friends,
Who crush the igloo he defends.
He wrecks her room but then he mends
The mess he made in vain.
His mother has a handsome guest,
But Max’s rage won’t be suppressed.
He screams and runs and is a pest
And bites his mom as well.
Alarmed, he flees and yells a while.
He sees a boat, sails to an isle,
Finds some natives to beguile,
And thinks of lies to tell.
These Wild Things are in conflict,
But Max insists he can evict
All loneliness and has them tricked.
They make the boy their king.
His first directive to impart
Is that the wild rumpus start,
And everybody plays their part
In one big wild fling.
His first friend Carol’s feeling blue
For some girl named KW,
Who’s left her old friends for some new,
And Carol now is jealous.
But Max insists they build a fort,
And so they do; they then cavort
In one big dirt clod-throwing sport,
And some are overzealous.
KW gets Carol hurt,
A joke that stings much more than dirt.
The fighting tends to just subvert
What ought to bring them closer.
They all are sullen once they’ve played,
And their respect for Max degrades.
The worried Carol feels betrayed
When Max is called a poser.
Then Carol rips off someone’s arm
And tries to do the young king harm.
Max flees the monster in alarm.
KW protects him.
Max sees himself in Carol’s rage,
And chooses then to disengage
From his unstable island stage
Where everyone suspects him.
They mourn their loss while he’s in sight,
Including Carol, who’s contrite,
And Max sails on into the night
Upon the ocean’s foam.
When he returns, Mom can relax
And with a hug forgives his acts.
She gives him dinner warm, and Max
Is glad to be back home.

Where the Wild Things Are is a rather odd movie. It’s based off the classic children’s picture book by Maurice Sendak (which my mom read to me growing up), but the tone of the entire film has a distinctly adult sensibility. Except for a few scenes, I can’t really see a kid enjoying it, since even my VC couldn’t hang with it and disliked the dysfunctional family and out-of-control kid (whose behavior probably stems from too little parenting). The film is often boring and wordy and is honestly pretty depressing, what with all the talk about the sun dying and the messed-up relationships that aren’t really resolved.

From this film and what I’ve heard of his others, I would say that director Spike Jonze tends to take seemingly outlandish plotlines and turn them into artistic films that can be taken seriously. He certainly has done just that in Where the Wild Things Are, which may not be meant for young kids but at least avoids the adult content of his other films, like Being John Malkovich and the recent Her.

The appeal of this movie is in its depth and insight into Max’s psyche, which is broken down and given life in the form of the Wild Things he meets. Ira represents his desire to be appreciated; pessimistic Judith is his angry insistence to be taken on his own terms, accepting only love and understanding as an answer; Alexander is his fear of him being ignored and his pain not understood; and Carol is his jealous selfishness and his ferocious temper. Seeing the Wild Things’ relationships break down and particularly Carol’s going “out of control” (as Max did in the beginning) is like Max looking in a mirror and resolving to change. His goodbyes and departure from the Wild Things were actually surprisingly touching.

Unfortunately, Max’s “change” only goes so far. In the final moments with his mom, I kept expecting him to say “I’m sorry,” but those magic words are left unsaid, with only knowing and sympathetic looks to take their place. However, the CGI-enhanced puppets from the Jim Henson Creature Shop are some of the most life-like puppets I’ve ever seen, making the film notable for its visual effects as well. All in all, it’s a well-made but divisive film that is worthy of a much more detailed analysis than I’ve given and one that will only appeal to those who “get” its underlying message.

Best line: (Douglas, when his arm is pulled off during Carol’s vicious tantrum) “That was my favorite arm!”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 3
Visual Effects: 8
Originality: 5
Watchability: 3
Other (slow parts): -2
TOTAL: 30 out of 60

Tomorrow: #311: The Sword in the Stone

© 2014 S. G. Liput