Movie Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Movie Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are

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PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action
and brief language.

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Maurice Sendak’s classic book comes to life on the big screen in this adventure tale. Where the Wild Things Are follows the imagination of Max, a mischievous young boy who runs away from home after rebelling against his mother. While on the run, Max’s imagination run’s wild too.

With that in mind, Max finds himself transported to a thriving forest bordering a vast sea. Delighted by the adventure, he sets sail for the land of the Wild Things, where mischief reigns and Max rules.

In what’s described as an adventure, drama, family and fantasy flick, Spike Jonze leads a team of filmmakers in bringing the book to life on the big screen. Where the Wild Things Are uses the most dynamic elements of voice performance, live-action puppetry and computer animation.

When A Book Comes To Life

In 1963 the book Where The Wild Things Are, written by Maurice Sendak, was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 1963. It also won the 1964 Caldecott Medal.

But, just because it won some awards, does not mean it’s a family movie appropriate for kids.

If you’re a parent and thinking of taking your kids to see this movie remember one thing…

This movie is Rated PG!

The bottom line — Where The Wild Things Are is not for small kids. This movie is not Rated G. It’s rated PG for a reason.

This is an intense movie. While the warning says “PG for mild thematic elements” the elements of this movie are far from mild. Don’t be misled by the cool looking cuddly monsters from the trailers. They may look cute and cuddly, but when they come to life on the big screen, it’s a much different story. Remember, they are monsters conjured up in the mind and imagination of the main character Max. It’s also worth noting that when the book came out in 1963 many found the pen and ink illustrations too frightening for children too.

Tom Hanks, the producer of Where The Wild Things Are describes the flick as “a stunning movie in many ways. Visually you can’t believe your eyes.” Hanks went on to say, “emotionally it’s going to take you to a place that…you will be surprised that you will feel the way that you do at the end of the movie.”

Hanks is right on target with his comments. From a production standpoint, Where The Wild Things Are is amazing. The puppetry and special effects are stunning. The theme of the movie does indeed have a strong emotional pull by the end of the movie.

But, special effects and the art of tugging on ones emotions,
does not mean it’s a stellar movie.

If anything, even though it’s a short movie clocking in at just slightly more than an hour and a half, it’s rather slow moving with many watch-checking-moments. In all honesty, I almost fell asleep and the hour and half felt more like two and a half hours. Even when the movie did pick up the pace, the over-all feel was more erratic than anything else. While I’m sure the intent was to give the effect of the wildness of the moment. It does little more than just jar the senses of the viewer.

Looking Into The Mind Of A Child

The 1963 book was one of the first children’s books looking into the inner workings of the mind of a child. While it appears to be a story of imagination about monsters, Where The Wild Things Are actually peers into the mind of a child and how he, along with other children, deal with their fears of the unknown. While this is ingenious and is certainly an accurate depiction of how the mind of a child works, it’s a very complicated theme to tackle on the big screen. Through the story we see Max come to terms with a fragmented family, a mean sister, and loneliness issues just to mention a few. While these are important themes, at times the movie comes to an almost complete stop as we see Max dealing with his fears through his imaginary monster friends.

Cautionary Family-Friendly

I must admit I struggled with the rating of this movie. While I’ve repeatedly pointed out Where The Wild Things Are is a PG movie, not a G movie, I debated on whether to call it family-friendly or cautionary family-friendly. While I would not put it into the not family-friendly category, I finally decided to call it cautionary family-friendly. This is simply a warning to parents who’ve been fooled by the cuddly monster commercials.

We screen movies with an audience so it makes it much easier to determine how viewers like the movie. Heading out of the theater I asked a number of parents who had their 1st and 2nd graders with them and they all said – “Much to intense for my kids.” Some went on to say they thought it would be much more kid-friendly because the commercials make the various characters look so cute and cuddly.

In other words…the commercials are misleading!

This is really a movie aimed at older kids who loved the book. At various points in the movie younger kids were screaming, whimpering and crying because it’s not meant for the young kids. If I had to pick what I think is an appropriate age, I would say possible 10 or 11 and up. But, even then, parents, attend the movie with your kids if they fall into the age group of 10 to 13. Then, after viewing the movie, be prepared to talk about it. I’m not saying Where The Wild Things Are doesn’t have great themes. But, I am saying, this is not a simple entertaining turn your mind off fun type of movie. It is intense!

Issues With Marketing

Overall, and I know this might seem odd after the review, I did kind of like Where The Wild Things Are. From a production and puppetry standpoint, it’s very creative and well done. But, when it comes to pace, it’s way too slow. I must admit I looked at my watch about 4 times in the span of an hour and a half. Even our 17 year old son and his girlfriend both said, while they liked the movie, it was too slow. They also had an interesting insight saying a lot of their friends want to see it. They think the target audience should be older teens who grew up with the book. The movie should not be seen as an alternative to the book for younger kids.

That leads to my main complaint about this children’s book come to life on the big screen.

Promotion for the movie seems to be aimed at the very young crowd, while side-stepping the PG rating. Had it been marketed differently, this review might have been a little more positive. Where The Wild Things Are has the potential to be an emotional roller coaster ride to self-awareness of what’s important. That’s fine for an older audience, but it’s not for a younger one.

Where The Wild Things Are might be better enjoyed on DVD in the comfort of your own home a few months from now.

Cautiously enjoy the show!
Dr. Rus

About the Author

Dr. Rus has 30+ years experience in the field of communication. He takes this experience, and his passion to encourage others to positively effect their environment, when providing insight and movie reviews.