Despite divorce, moving around and living through disco, when I was a child I never thought much about growing up. I just wanted to play. I loved being a kid. Every day was a wonderful new page to fill.
I don't remember when I was introduced to Where the Wild Things Are, but I don't think it made nearly the impact on me as it did many of you. Like Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers. Those guys obviously saw a lot more into the child's story than I did. If anything, I just remember it being about a normal kid. Big whoop – jungles grew in my room every day.
And in the movie, they didn't.
Last Saturday we took our daughters (8, 6) to see this movie based on the playful premise of the trailer. I expected there to be a great deal of playing, but soon found out there's not a lot of things you can do with giant Muppets.
Don't get me wrong, this is a visually beautiful movie. And Eggers' writing is raw and real. Just a little too real for me. For this movie. With my kids in the audience – who are in their imaginative primes.
Note – this is not a child's movie. Yes, it's about a boy who uses his imagination to go to a very cool place with very cool beasts – but the fun stops there. This is a movie about the death of childhood – not the celebration of it. Max, the protagonist, is more than just the king of the Wild Things, he's a boy standing on the edge of harsh the world where waves violently crash on the rocks below.
Early on in the movie, Max tells his mother a story. It's about a vampire who builds the biggest castle of all the vampires. Except, at some point the vampire broke off his teeth. And other vampires suggested those were only his baby teeth and that his grown up teeth will come in. But the vampire said those were his grown up teeth that broke. And so all the other vampires left him because he wasn't a vampire anymore.
This one bit of dialogue sealed it for me – this wasn't a movie about the joy of childhood and the imagination, but of the fears of stepping off the edge. And it was hard to watch. I don't disagree with the critical reviews this movie is receiving – I just expected different.
The overriding tone of this movie is best summed up by a line Carol (the main beast) says to Max, "Will you keep out all the sadness?"
I think I'll plug in Monsters, Inc. tonight for the kids. As a palate cleanser.