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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?


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Oh my. I'm not taking my preschooler. It's clearly for older kids: ones who remember the book from when they were younger, perhaps, and can handle the movie adaptation.


That's one of my fav. websites.....funny stuff.

I think I'll skip it for the same reason I've never seen Jesus' Son or The Razor's Edge or Short Cuts. The books were just too important to me to risk it.

We'll probably pass, just like we will on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, another favorite book that film makers felt the need to morph into a practically unrecognizable movie.

I don't have much of an opinion on this particular book/movie pairing, but others have hit close to home. One way to approach it with kids is to watch the movie and then talk about how it is one person's version of the story from the book. Then ask the kids what their version would be. Even little ones might like to imagine a movie where the monsters were more or less scary, where a character looks different or has a different name. You can always prompt them if you want with suggestions of changes. For instance, often movies leave out episodes that are in books and you can always ask them if they wish that such and such had been included. Those kind of discussions can help kids (and adults) _own_ their experience of the book and begin to think about translating a book into a different medium. Take it to whatever extent you and your kids are ready for.

You could also help them, especially with a book that is a family treasure, to see it as wonderful in its own right and also a source of other stories/interpretations. Watch the movie. Have them retell the story (or part of it) in their own words and write those down for them. Have them come up with their own illustration for their favorite part, or for what they wish were in the book. Have them act out a scene from the book with props. Pick a phrase from the book and use it around the house (my daughter likes to say "How dare you mock me" from Three Samurai Cats). Make the book more vibrant instead of static.

My five year old got to see a sneak preview of it last week (the boy who stars in it is a student at his school, so the school was given a special screening). I was going to take my son to it anyway, based on the beautiful preview and Maurice Sendak's endorsement of the project. I was worried though that my son might find it scary, being PG with monsters and all. He told me that he wasn't scared, though some kids were, and that he liked it. It's the first time he's gone to a movie without me there, so I'm glad he didn't find it scary. Guess I'll wait until it's on DVD to see it myself!

I will wait to read reviews on Kids in Mind and Common Sense Media and talk to other parents before going with my 4 1/2 year old. We find waiting until a movie is at a pizza/movie place gives enough time to decide and if scary/not liked less money if need to leave and more flexibility with walking around/needing a break. Not so worried about changes to the book, that is the nature of books made into movies.

I have pretty strong feelings on this - particularly after seeing the trailer. I am beyond disappointed that Sendak chose to collaborate on a movie of his classic. (Yes, I presume to know better than the author himself!)

It's one thing to make a film of a full-length novel. But to take a picture book like this and re-make the entire story - which is what they had to do to make it movie-length - just seems like wrecking what was perfectly good to begin with.

The book is wonderful, magical and mysterious. It allows kids to come up with their own explanations for why Max makes mischief or where he got that wolf suit, anyway. Or just to let these things be mysteries. There was no need to add in adult relationships, dating, single motherhood, the perils of growing up or any of that stuff.

Is nothing sacred??

Spike Jonze is amazing. I truly can't think of a more gifted and honoring-of-the-book person to do a film adaptation. The way Jonze has made this film isn't even remotely comparable to the travesty of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs' film incarnation.

My hope is that this becomes a classic film to complement a classic book, much in the way that Charlotte's Web was for me as a child. We'll be at the theater for sure for this one.

I loved the Lord of the Rings books and movies, I wildly preferred the two Narnia movies over the books, and I spent the entire time watching The Tale of Despereaux cringing because of how much they butchered the book, which I loved. I'm a big reader and countless of my favorites have been adapted to film, some are travesties, some are merely entertaining and some are works of art in their own right. I'm excited about this movie. It looks visually stunning and I take no issue with an artistic interpretation of Where The Wild Things Are. I'll reserve my judgement until I see the actual film.

I am leaving this one to our imaginations only.

There is now a book based on the movie.

To me, it's not a big deal. I'm sure that if cafemama made a movie version of Where the Wild Things Are, it would look vastly different than mine.

Our daughter loves the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence, and relatives have given us way too many nursery rhyme books in order to feed her passion. As a result we have six or seven visual interpretations of Sing a Song of Sixpence in the house, all very different from one another. Some we like, some we don't. That's the beauty of art and interpretation, no?

The movie looks beautiful and I am very excited to see it. I love the book and I don't feel upset at all about seeing another talented artist's interpretation of the book- it doesn't take away from my experience with the book at all. I like Spike Jonze a lot and I think it's pretty great that a local kid is playing Max.

My son is only 1 1/2, so he obviously won't watch it until he is older. I think it is okay that they made this book into a movie, and changed the age level it was aimed at. So it seems that the movie is maybe appropriate for older kids who remember the book from when they were little.

As for a previous comment, saying that there is now a book based on the movie, that is sort-of true, but not in a bad way (at least not to me!). Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze wrote the screenplay together and in the middle of writing it, Maurice Sendak asked Eggers if he would write a novel (which is called The Wild Things). Here is a little quote from Dave Eggers that i though was interesting: "We all really get along - Spike and Maurice and I always had the same goals for the movie, and the novelization, too, which was to sort of reinstitute the dangerous elements of that book. Because when it came out, it was pretty controversial and some librarians didn’t like it, and child psychologists thought it was, you know, unhelpful. And it was really morally ambiguous in a way. It showed a kid sort of disobeying his mother and acting crazy - which all kids do, but you still don’t see much of in children’s literature. It’s too often, I think, washed clean."

My 6.5 year old went to the same screening as pdxbeth's son above. Now, granted he is a sensitive guy, but my son left after 20 mins because it was too intense for him. A handful of other younger grade kids didn't make it through the movie either, but others of the same ages were unfazed. I guess it depends on what your kiddo can handle in the make-believe and suspense departments. I did hear a teacher who attended say that she thought it was more geared toward older ages and adults who remember the book from childhood and not so much younger kids. However, the ones who did like the movie really liked it.

We live close to the Roseway Theater (fantastic theater remodel recently) and frequent often for date night. They are opening the film and I spoke with the owner who is really nice. He mentioned that the studio behind the movie said it was indeed geared more towards adults then kids. However, it did get a pg rating. Anyways he is going to send us an email after the 1st weekend and advise on how kids are handling it. Said many have asked and he has a list and others are welcome to email for the same.

Oops...link for email is on www.rosewaytheater.com under suggest I believe

There's an interesting article about the book, and whether it's actually more appealing to adults than to children, in today's NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/books/review/Handy-t.html

I am actually more concerned about Mr. Jonze's take on Taro Gomi's childhood classic "Everybody Poops":


That's awesome, Tony!

it was implausible movie and of course i will go to watch this movie . though i watched trailer i could not download any of them.i have seen many people wear wild things suit.there are so nice

---A good half of these comments sound like they were penned by the studio. Sad if true. Sadder is not.

STOP being such worshippers of this kind of
pre-digested, set-up, decades stale 'inspiration'.

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