October 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

What follows is a moving review submitted by Man-Making subscriber Andrew MacDonald. If you want to review a book, film, other resource relevant to Man-Making Blog readers, just let me know.

The movie Where the Wild Things Are breaks fresh ground in describing the world of boys. It's a good one for either a young boy or teen. In it, any young male will recognize some of themselves in young Max (the hero). I sat next to a four-year old on his dad's lap, but older boys or teens might like it even more – Max is probably nine or ten.

It's a story of drama, action, and family complexity in which Max has a number of upsets and briefly runs away from home to join a tribe of woodland monsters. It starts with Max playing in his snow fort and having a snowball fight -lotsa fun; but the fort gets cruelly trashed with Max buried in it, the first of many reversals when exuberant highs turn into emotionally raw lows.

Later, after a fight with his (single) mom, he lights out for the river, and sails away in a small boat to a land where wild things live. These “wild things” look like giant Muppets – they're real actors in suits, but with computer animation for facial expression. The characters are well-developed, adult, and complex, and Max has an important connection to each one.

The depth of Max’s involvement and the (appropriate) emotionality isn't surprising since the screenplay is co-written by Dave Eggers. Readers of ManMaking may remember him from the September blog post about his TED-prize talk . . . when he spoke about his innovative mentoring project for kids.

The movie's based on an illustrated children's book by Maurice Sendak. When Sendak was asked what he'd say to parents who thought the film might be too scary, he said “I would tell them to go to hell.” Eggers chimed in that “I think adults should wear diapers going to it, too. I think everyone should be prepared for any eventuality.”

This is not an overly sentimental or sanitized view of childhood, and that's what makes it so fresh.

Andrew MacDonald

If you have seen this movie, what is your opinion?

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