Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Visually fun, this adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's story.

With a good message, though slightly dark.

Will children enjoy it? Will children understand it?

Not sure!

Let me know.

The film tracks a child (Max Records) out of control, whose world, if you will, is all about him. Things are tough for the boy in a home unsettled by divorce and the usual suspects. But with a deeply loving mother (Catherine Keener). Yet the boy is hateful and mean: "Feed me woman!" he says defiantly to his Mom one evening, as she's trying to entertain a male guest. Are we dealing here with a parable?

Running away from home (every child's spiteful dream, "I'll show you!), the child finds a small boat and sets out across the sea, until coming upon a strange land where the wild things are - is this the child's own soul meeting him?

The Wild Things are wonderfully crafted - a blend of Jim Henson's Creature Shop puppet magic and computer animation. And their voices - so profoundly out of sync with their visual qualities - lends a wonderful sense of delight to the story.

But Wild things are wild things, and they threaten to eat him. Yet the boy's defiance and quick-footed creativity serve him well, at least for awhile. Rather than eat him, they make him king (what every willful child desires; what all of us desire?), and, at first, good things, but in the end, things fall apart, or are destroyed.

Willfulness is always destructive. Period!

The boy learns these hard lessons, and finds love once again in the wild things of his life. The Wild Things are wild - that's the point - they try to love the boy, the boy tries to love them, they try to love one another. But love, for them, for us, is hard. Yet not beyond our reach! Love will never make the Wild Things cease, but love manages and finds a way to live with the Wild Things.

The boy returns home to find a loving mother waiting anxiously for him, who has always loved him, and now back home, we hope: the child will love his mother in her life as it is, for that's all we can do, and that's all that's needed - to love one another as we love ourselves in the reality of our lives, just as they are, mixed up and uncertain.

That's the message.

A good one for all of us.