Is the 'Where the Wild Things Are' movie a good thing?
In many ways I'm the exact sort of person who would most love the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic book of disobedient boys and their fantasy lives. I adore Where the Wild Things Are, and often demand to read it to my own wild boys when they'd rather read Thomas or the Berenstain Bears. As the parent of a boy (or two. or three) who could most definitely be classified as rambunctious and rebellious -- the movie synopsis adds "misunderstood," which probably fits too -- and seeks to both celebrate and ease these character traits, I love the wild-boy-as-hero concept. In point of fact, I started a Max-inspired wolf suit for Monroe last year for Halloween (it was never finished, and I'm currently undecided as to whether I'll try to finish it for this year; it certainly still suits his personality).
And yet, the trailer troubles me. Yes: it seems to be a luminous work of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers. The art is gorgeous, though very different from the book. But the boy is clearly quite a bit older than the way I envision Max (I see him as a five- or six-year-old; certainly no older than eight) and, of course, a 48-page picture book isn't enough material for a whole film. So there are additions, context, timeline juggling. Max is given the family troubles necessary for a boy who could tell his mom "I'll eat you up" (a single mom who's started dating, it seems, and difficulty at school), and a far more complex relationship with the monsters. Evidently, he's developed into a king, not simply given the crown because he stares into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.
It's rated PG; I'd hoped for "G"; probably due to the adult relationships depicted (I'm guessing here as I haven't yet found a more detailed synopsis of the movie's script). Spike Jonze has said the movie's plot came to him when he was despairing over the breakup of his own marriage. I worry that the pure, musical story of a boy escaping into a dark-but-empowering fantasy to deal with his anger will be saddled with context that doesn't work for every child. Instead of honoring the way Max relates to my own children -- Everett's certainly said many things much like "I'll eat you up," and Monroe has done them wordlessly -- I'll be obsessing over how different Max's mother is from me. In other words: this is all about Jonze's world view, and I need it to be far more malleable. This is a book I really honor, and I fear it will become too fraught with a specific and, while relatable, rigid family story.
My boys have seen the trailer and are eager to see the movie; I'd promised in a moment of rashness I'd take them to the theater (something we've never done). Now I wonder if I'd rather leave my knowledge of the movie to my usual: read reviews, watch it 10 years later when it comes out on network TV. What do you think? Will you see the movie? Will you bring your kids to see it? Are you, like me, terrified of having a movie ruin the book? Or do you think the new soul of Jonze's Wild Things is worth whatever the book loses?