If there is one movie that I’m so glad I forked my nine bucks (well, eighteen, considering my husband and I both saw it) over for—and would readily do it again in a heartbeat if we managed to get a babysitter again—it’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Though I’ve been a Spike Jonze fan for years, and was enthralled, delighted and even bemused by both Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, nothing had prepared me for the wonder—and sometimes even a bit of terror—induced by Wild Things. Sure, I love the book; my daughter and I love to “gnash our terrible teeth” and act like the monsters.
But this… boy, this was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And I’m telling you, as much as I love both fantasy and puppet movies (Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal…hell, anything from Jim Henson Studios), this was a whole new ball of wax (or, pile of monsters, as it was).
Having professed to dislike little boys profusely—and being so happy I’ve had a girl—I was finally able to enter the psyche of a little boy with the help of a few monsters. His beastliness and unruliness was matched by kindness, caring; his love for his single mother, even when angry with her—when acting out, even when biting her—was so palpable you could feel it sitting in your seat.
And then came the wild things. Jonze is not kidding when he maintains that this is a film about childhood, not necessarily a film for children. It’s definitely got scary parts and I wouldn’t recommend it for young children—not even for older children if they are afraid of monsters.
Every wild thing resonates—all of us, as the movie trailers and posters declared, has a little bit of all of them in us. From being easygoing and loving to jealous and destructive, combative and argumentative to simply wanting to be known—or to be left alone; we’ve all felt all of these emotions and more.
By using each wild thing as an emotion, Jonze created something that couldn’t have ever been imagined—the portrayal of the human soul by puppets. And as crazy or as cheesy as that might sound, it’s actually quite moving and beautiful. Jonze really took a beloved children’s tale and built upon it without adding anything that took away from it, without destroying it, and made it even more alive.
It’s funny, entertaining, and thrilling, to be sure; don’t go expecting a wishy washy cryfest. But you might cry. And that’s okay. Because there’s a little bit of that in all of us, too.