My favorite childhood book was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Before ingesting its glossy pages of illustrations and meager sentences on my own, my parents read it to me.
Although not much in terms of the written word, clocking in about 338 words, I “read” Sendak’s piece de resistance, making this a childhood favorite in my book (hah, I am on a word playing roll lately!).
I prescribed to the idea of monsters lurking under my bed or in my closet as a child, making my parents check before tucking me in at night. Somehow, and I do not know exactly how, Sendak’s book helped me see a friendlier side of what I thought to be ferocious creatures. Max always seemed far more volatile than the wild things, declaring himself king. I may have neglected to retain parts of the book, particularly when the wild things implore Max to stay, mentioning they would like to eat him. I am sure it did not hurt that Max wills a distant land to appear before his very eyes and later leaves his imagined world…sounds, with a lot of imagination and reading between the metaphysical lines, like my travels.
In compiling today’s post, I also remembered writing a film review as part of a how-to piece (hot to write a film review) for my creative nonfiction class at Goucher, later publishing the review in the student newspaper, The Quindecim. The film adaptation I dug out of Google Drive for those interested in reading my take on Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are:
“Spike Jonze unleashes the Wild Things”
Where the Wild Things Are, based on the popular children’s book, follows the story of a little boy named Max (played by Max Records) whose persistent imagination causes him trouble. The audience is introduced to Max building an igloo alone while talking to the inanimate fence. The interaction he does have with others leads to the destruction of his igloo and a multitude of tears.
Consoled by his hard-working Mom (played by Catherine Keener), he tells an imaginary tale of a vampire that reflects his struggles to interact with other kids. In conjunction with his vampire tale, Max amuses his mother while she deals with a stressful work-related phone call.
While Max’s mother and boyfriend (played by Mark Ruffalo) try to spend time together, Max’s imagination unleashed his wild thing. He proclaims while standing on the kitchen table that he must be fed. While telling him to control himself and grow up, Max reacts by jumping off the table and biting her. As soon as his mother makes him aware of what he’s done, Max makes a break for it. With his mother in tow, trying to find him, he slips through the fence into the land of the Wild Things.
Here he meets a scene of chaos; Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) is ripping apart all the wild things’ nests. The other wild things, minus KW (voiced by Lauren Ambrose), apathetic, watch and tell Carol to stop. Max intervenes, hoping to destroy something too. The Wild Things see Max as their next meal, but Max proclaims that he is a king. Unknown to him, the Wild Things are in need of a king to restore the group’s happiness. Accepting the role of king, his first act is the wild rumpus ending in a sleeping pile. Curious about the new king, KW resurfaces. Happiness is momentarily restored; Carol and Max grow closer, and plans for the ultimate fort that will bring happiness unknown before are soon underway.
Quickly things go wrong. The Wild Things begin to turn on one another and finally Max sees he must leave when Carol, his closest friend tries to make him his next meal. As Max is leaving with all the Wild Things sans Carol there to say goodbye, Carol sprints towards Max’s boat, soggy-eyed with a wordless exchange of understanding shared between them.
Overall, the film translated its inspiration, Maurice Sendak’s book into reality while still containing most of the film within fantasy. A child could watch the film, although there are dark undertones, as well as a college-age adult; the film’s sense of agelessness is further heightened by its soundtrack and familiarity. The soundtrack, mostly comprised of songs performed by Karen O and the Kids, sets the tone for each scene.
What seemed exceedingly childish, even for a film based on a children’s book, was KW’s friends, Bob and Terry. Clearly necessary for furthering the plot, but too cute and childish to fit the darkness of the film, Bob and Terry could be made less comical to restore balance.
I had high expectations for Where the Wild Things Are. It was the first book I could read without any assistance. The film did an adequate job of allowing me to revisit my own inner wild thing that once thrived for me around Max’s age.