So we finally got around to watching “Where the Wild Things Are” last night. Almost two years after its theatrical release. I won’t lie that I was excited to see this film, but I was also quite nervous, which is probably why I waited so long to actually sit down and watch it.
It has many things going for it:
1. The story, natch. Who can resist that?
2. Spike Jonze
3. Groovy soundtrack featuring Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
So why the delay? First off, we got busy. Eli moved in shortly before that and our lives were changed. Sitting down to watch anything became a chore (it’s getting better) and frankly we are too tired to go out to see a film in the theatre. While we were waiting though, I did manage to get my arm/tattoo/sleeve done with Max and his epic proclamation: Let the wild rumpus start! It was a huge hit in New Orleans at the Prime Time Family Reading training. I can’t tell you how many of the story tellers and other book-nerds in attendance took a picture of my arm.
I love the story, and I guess that it what concerned me. How do you take a book that has less than a paragraph of writing and turn it into a feature film? Jonze worked with Dave Eggers to create the screenplay, and according to what I have read, Maurice Sendak gave his blessing to the final write. I read Egger’s Zeitoun, a horrific but extremely readable tale about post-Katrina New Orleans. I couldn’t put it down. No really, trust me on this one.
So after a sugar-fueled day of naughtiness and bad behavior, we sat down to watch the film after our own Wild Things were tucked in bed, or so we thought. We knew Anna would be interested in the film, as she loves the story, but we knew that there were things in this movie that we might not want her to see. We were glad she wasn’t there, as the film is way beyond her ken right now. However, Maxine appeared about 20 minutes into the film and demanded that she be able to watch it with us. NO, we said, and sent her back to the room. The film is a noisy one, and I love our sound system, especially in the attic. Movies are amazing, especially loud ones. But, we were good parents and turned off the goodies and turned down the volume so she would go to sleep. We think she saw some bits of the film, but we told her that she had to be older to watch it. Didn’t give her a number, just said older and she seemed to be okay with that.
I loved the first part of the film, as it visualized what Sendak had drawn in live action. The characters, un-named in the book, now have names and personalities, and I loved them all. I found myself tearing up as Max got the party started in the film with great enthusiasm and loved the monster pile. What fun. But after they milked the book, it got weird. I had read parts of Egger’s screenplay in the New Yorker and loved what I read, but I didn’t like how it fleshed out on the screen. I found the Wild Things and their issues to be a bit much and not in the realm of the story. I honestly got a little bored. But as the climax came about, and Max returns home (no spoilers, trust me, if you’ve read the book, you know how it ends) I identified more with Max’s mom than him, even though he is who is on my arm. As she slipped into slumber at the table looking at her little Wild Thing full of love and devotion, I caught myself once again tearing up as I have stared in amazement and horror at my own little Wild Things the same way at the dinner table as they create their own rumpus over the night’s meal. Yes, the book came out the year before I was born, and I will always love it. But now I understand that Wild Things do grow up; I just hope they never forget their younger, wilder days.
Thanks Maurice for a wonderful book, and thanks to Spike for taking it to the next level.