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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Contrary to what you may think, Where the Wild Things Are is not a documentary about the goings-on in my boudoir. Nor is it an expose of what you are going to find in Khloe Kardasian’s lingerie hamper, though there are critters in the movie Where the Wild Things Are that probably resemble what you’d find in her underpants if you looked at them under a microscope.

Believe it or not, Where the Wild Things Are is a(n alleged) children’s movie, although with a well-deserved PG rating I would hardly encourage anyone to grab their six year old and rush out to see it. This thing is downright creepy ~ Blair Witch Project creepy ~ without the swearing, but still managing the low-budget feel and wilderness motif that makes a big city gal like me long for room service and fluffy towels.

First, let me give you the gist of what Where the Wild Things Are is about. It is essentially a simple tale spun off from a ten sentence (!!!) 1963 bestselling book written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak about  a boy named Max (debuting Max Record) who has a fight with his mother and is sent to his room where he spends the evening envisioning himself as the king of an island of monsters. Eventually he gets homesick (and hungry) and wants to come home, wrapping up his punishment and imaginary adventure just in time for dinner. The End. Okay, so it’s ten lines. You can’t expect Shakespeare, but apparently you can expect generations of kids to grow up on this book like it is the pre-adolescent equivalent of the Talmud or something.
So when the movie opened last week, a flock of the young’uns who work at the Essex Cinemas were all in a froth wanting to see it. They were practically devastated when I arrived on Friday afternoon and I told a quartet of concession cuties on duty that I was there to see Law Abiding Citizen instead of Where the Wild Things Are. They were hoping I’d be their envoy to witness the first showing so I could report back immediately afterward on just how wonderful it absolutely had to be. It’s just as well I missed that premiere because I also missed the Jim Jones’ special Sendak Kool Aid® recipe apparently the rest of the world was drinking back in the day. Not only had I never read the book I had never even seen it except in passing while strolling through various bookstores over the years. Now, my penance for living a hedonistic lifestyle and using birth control had caught up to me and I was being forced to face my ignorance of all things popular amongst the elementary school set. Granted, director Spike Jonze (creator of tv and film’s Jackass series) does make some changes to Sendak’s original story (there’d have to be in order to stretch his ten lines into a 95-minute film), but the tone and the monsters are transferred from page to cinema without losing any of their original charm, if you want to call it that.

Personally, I didn’t find these critters all that charismatic, but it’s probably because I am a pragmatist. When Max meets his new pals late at night, illuminated only by firelight, they are grunting and growling and the biggest of the lot is on a rampage of destruction  ~ not exactly an introduction I’d find enticing for making friends. Worse yet, as soon as Max is sized up by the group, the female monster, Judith (voiced by Catherine O'Hara; Away We Go), not only suggests eating him, but also chastises him for probably having “crunchy, little bird bones” that will be a problem to swallow. What the hell kind of a ‘good time’ image is that for an impressionable four or five year old to think about? Their parents might as well take the kids to see Saw VI for that kind of educational experience. Oh sure, by morning, things lighten up in more ways than just having the sun come up, and everyone is having a “rumpus” of a good time demolishing trees throughout the forest Where the Wild Things Are, but I found myself more concerned about whether Max was going to get covered in ticks from riding on the backs of these hairy beasties or if the creatures would all die once their woods were clear-cut in another week or so of this senseless deforestation. It’s never clear how long the monsters have lived on this (imaginary) island, but I imagined the desert that head monster Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini; tv’s “The Sopranos” of course)  and Max travel through was probably last week’s State Park.

Nothing much happens in Where the Wild Things Are that doesn’t happen in any human home populated with a pre-teen herd. The monsters bicker, they play, they collaborate on projects, and then they turn on one another. Okay, so Carol does rip his best friend’s arm off, but doesn’t that happen all the time with kids? At least he sticks a tree branch in the open wound as a replacement limb. Limb? Ha, I kill myself.

The problem I have with Where the Wild Things Are has to do with the subliminal messages it sends to kids that today’s parents seem to be missing. Maybe parents are so cowed by their children they don’t even realize bad behavior when they see it anymore. I don’t know what world they ~ or Max’s mom (Catherine Keener; The Soloist) live in, but if I was Max’s mother and he got up on a kitchen counter in his dirty shoes and screamed “FEED ME, WOMAN!” at me he’d get himself locked in the nearest broom closet without dinner or consciousness before he had a chance to run away. Instead, she squirms and begs him to be quiet for fear that her date (Mark Ruffalo;  What Doesn't Kill You, in a throw-away three or four line role) in the living room might hear. Please, Louise! I’m sure her date would be just as happy to see her sell the kid to a circus freak show than get saddled with this little candidate for a Ritalin Ranch somewhere in Idaho, so if she knocked him off that counter he’d just ask for a little more wine and a lot more coochie by evening’s end.

Max is 100% a juvenile delinquent in the making. In the first ten minutes of the movie the kid is off the hook with his rage and destroys his sister’s personal property when he trashes her room, he mouths off at mama, runs away from home, commits grand theft when he steals a sailboat, then vandalizes the vehicle by carving his name into its beautiful teak wood hull. He barely meets the monster squad before he lies through his teeth and even commits identity fraud. Hmm. I’m not sure he’s the one we should be worried for so much as about. He has the potential to become another Jeffrey Dahmer by the time he turns 16. I mean, think about it, after all, this is his funky fantasy, and he’s the one dreaming about how tasty the meat of human flesh will taste coming off the bone. Where the Wild Things Are, indeed. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its just a movie! have fun for a chance :)