Where The Wild Things Are
Time/place: 12:20 showing at the Laguna Hills Mall theater
Well, my friends.. this afternoon it arrived in my life. I have been anticipating this movie for years: since I first heard Spike Jonze was directing, during the turbulence of the studio’s revolt against the dark tones, to those two teaser images that were released so long ago, finally culminating with the release of one of my favorite trailers of all time. And now, after this long journey of waiting and excitement, I’ve seen it… and I can’t tell you exactly what I think of it.
Madness, I know! I’m not completely disappointed, but I didn’t walk out of the theater filled with wonder. First, let me tell you, the movie is great. It’s smart, well-written (though somewhat slow and disjointed, but that works and I’ll say why later), funny, and charming. So, what’s wrong with me… why didn’t I like it if it was so great?
I don’t exactly know. Let’s see if we can find the answer.
One of the major factors I can pin down is that I couldn’t relate to the kid, Max. Not by any fault of the writing or acting, but I was a quiet little guy who more often than not would spend time playing with my Legos as opposed to running around wild and playing rough. Sure, I was a kid and I had my moments of over-excitement, but a huge hope for me, especially after seeing the trailer, was that I could see myself in the lead character and feel like a kid again – but that didn’t happen very often while I watched. I didn’t have tantrums, I didn’t have a sense of adventure, nor a desire for “wild rumpuses.” I know I’m in the minority, but that just wasn’t me as a kid, so it was hard to find that connection with Max – a regular kid. I did, however, enjoy the relationship with the mom… especially during one quiet scene where he comes in, sees she is stressed, and does what he can to make her smile. There were moments like that from time to time, just not too many.
Another issue I had, was just that it wasn’t quite what I expected. In tone, pacing, everything… it’s not the trailer, which feels smooth, polished and magical. Here is what I mentioned before, though – it’s the story of a kid trying to figure things out from HIS point of view. I didn’t relate to little Max too well, so watching a movie of his emotions being embodied by rambunctious monsters just didn’t do much for me, however the somewhat disjointed storytelling was definitely a conscious choice to put us into Max’s mindset.
Ultimately, though, my great lack of enjoyment came mostly from the fact that this wasn’t a movie of magical things to suck me right into it. There were some touching moments, but for the most part, I felt unattached to the movie. This is nothing more than personal taste, though. Eventually, however, Where The Wild Things Are got me… and it got me good.
I sat in the theater as the movie started, and my mind was a million miles away. The intro titles pulled me in, but I quickly became distracted and somewhat bored by the movie. It looked absolutely beautiful, and the use of actual costumes entertained me so much that I could just watch the wild things walk around doing things for hours and hours on end, but my disconnection from the main character often let my mind wander to other matters that have been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. More simply put, I didn’t get lost in the movie until near the very end. One of the characters has a bad reaction, a “tantrum” of sorts, and I suddently became really interested in the outcome of these characters. I even cried, but not like I normally would. It was more controlled… a few tears here and there, but nothing big… not because it was some beautiful, magical thing, but simply because it was touching.
The highlight of the movie, though, for very personal reasons, wasn’t even the movie itself. It was my audience. There weren’t too many folks in the theater, but there were a few kids. Little kids. There is some scary, wild crap that happens in this movie, but the kids were fine. At one point a wild thing is smacked off of their feet with a thrown rock, and a little kid in the middle of the following silence laughed loud and hard. I smiled. As the credits rolled, though, and a mom led her two little girls (maybe 4 and 6 years old) out, I smiled at the youngest one as I held those few tears in, and she waved and said “Bye” as they walked by. I returned the goodbye and waved, and that little moment was somehow the most touching of the entire movie.
So, to conclude… I still don’t know. Where The Wild Things Are is a really well made movie, it’s just not exactly what I was after. The idea of exploring a child’s logic and their attempt to understand themselves by using monsters to represent the various emotions is wonderful, and I loved so much about this movie that I hate to say otherwise… I was just a little underwhelmed and disappointed, and I can’t avoid it. I wanted to love it more than I’ve loved anything in a while, but that’s just not the case. I’m sure my second viewing may raise the grade a little, but for now…