Where The Wild Things Are : When Kids' Tales Go Tinseltown

Illustration for article titled Where The Wild Things Are : When Kids' Tales Go Tinseltown

Am I the only one who’s kind of apprehensive about the Spike Jonze-helmed Where the Wild Things Are movie? Yes? Okay, then. But here’s why:

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another. His mother called him “WILD THING!” and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything. That very night in Max’s room a forest grew and grew- and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are. And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws- till Max said “BE STILL!” and tamed them with a magic trick of staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things. “And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!” “Now stop!” Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all. Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat so he gave up being king of where the wild things are. But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go- we’ll eat you up- we love you so!” And Max said, “No!” The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled theur terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved good-bye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him- and it was still hot.

That’s it. That’s the whole book - well, that and some of the most memorable and iconic illustrations of any 20th century children’s story. By now, everyone knows that Where the Wild Things Are, The Movie, has had the kind of rocky production history of which movie legend is made: the genius auteur with a vision fighting the string of suits who push for less scary and more conventional; the wild anticipation of Jonze’s fanbase; the raptures over the preview.

Jonze, as a profile in the new NY Times Magazine reminds us, has always had impeccable cred, somehow managing to combine his skate-punk origins, his friendship with luminaries, his innovative videos and his marriage with Sophia Coppola into an unimpeachably cool version of what a self-directed movie career can be. Despite the trappings of Hip Hollywood, he’s got the artistic license of one who’s done only work he’s proud of, and which, whatever its failings, is always interesting. But you don’t watch Being John Malkovich or even Adaptation and love them because they resonate so deeply with you: although they’re anchored by real emotion, at the end of the day it’s a look into a different psyche, and that’s what’s engaging.


I get that he’s the “perfect choice” to make this movie. He loves the book, and he has Sendak’s okay. He didn’t want to make it for years, according to the article, because “I love it in this form, and I don’t want to add something on that seems extraneous.” Maybe he didn’t want this: “There’s a line of “Wild Things” skateboards, a soundtrack album by Karen O of the art-rock group Yeah Yeah Yeahs and branded “Wild Things” jewelry for sale at a boutique near Jonze’s Lower East Side apartment.”

If they have to do it, he’s the one. And I guess they do have to; in a world where they’re re-making Melrose Place, it’s unrealistic to suppose that actually amazing source material should lie fallow. And yet, even the stirring preview fills me with irrational ambivalence, and not just because I don’t trust Dave Eggers after Away We Go although that’s true. My WTWTA has nothing to do with The Arcade Fire. It was about conjuring complex feelings of fear and rage and righteous vengeance. The Wild Things didn’t bante! (And doesn’t giving them normal grown-up voices just make the whole “be our king” thing weird? ) And I know that’s just me, that millions of children who’ve read and loved it and been kind of scared have had a unique, personal interpretation and vision. Children’s books are great because they live in your head and depend on projection. This will be Jonze’s vision, and it will be cool and neat-looking and interesting. But it won’t have anything to do with what I or any other child felt while reading it. Maybe that’s okay.

Bringing ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ to the Screen [NYTimes]
Catch Of The Day: Where The Wild Things Are [Guardian]
Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are To Be Entirely Reshot?! [SlashFilm]
We Love You So [Official Site]

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has there ever been a successful children's book to full-length movie adaptation? the one that sticks out most for me is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" because I [i]hated[/i] that movie. HATED it. were there any good ones? I'm curious about what I could be overlooking.