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a little wildness can be a good thing



i saw where the wild things are on monday. i was very excited-- i loved the book, read it to james and miles all the time, and the trailers looked so good. lots of running through the forest with music playing. those two things go well together: music and running through the forest. brings up ideas of freedom and joy. in fact, the trailer talked about hope as well as wildness.

how does one make a two-hour movie from a child's storybook? there are only a few sentences to work from! we learn that max lives with an older sister and his mom-- his dad is either divorced or dead. max is very alone and angry. he builds an igloo with snow pushed away from the street by a snowplow. when the older kids across the street come home he attacks them with snowballs. the kids overwhelm max, destroy his igloo, and his sister does not help. angry, max trashes claire's room.

mom comes home from work, tired and overwhelmed. the job is not going well. she has a date over for dinner. max is jealous, coming downstairs in his famous wolf costume, shouting and running. when mom does not back down from his behavior, threatening to send him to bed without supper, he runs out the door into the night. mom tries to find him but fails. max comes upon a boat, climbs in, and soon washes ashore in a distant land.

you know the rest of the story: the monsters on the island name max king. in the movie he promises them magical powers that will make everyone safe and happy. and keep them that way. no more fighting. they build a huge fort together. they seem happier than they have been for a long time. but the happiness does not last. max, it turns out, is just a kid, not a super hero. he's not a real king. his closest friend among the monsters, carol, is a carbon copy of max-- easily upset, the world against him when he does not get his way. finally he pushes max away. max climbs back into his boat-- the monsters do not threaten to eat him in the movie-- and returns home. mom is relieved to see max again, but in a very tired sort of way, and gives him soup for dinner.

end of movie.

where the wild things are is a great film to look at-- the costumes are amazing, and the locations and styles of shooting really make you feel like you are there. but my question is: do you want to be there? do the monsters even enjoy life in their "no rules" environment? each of the monsters is at least a little of max, and carol is 100% max. they are quick to return to their emotional brokenness when things do not go as they hope. we don't know if max learned anything from his journey, or whether he exploded again the next time his sister or mother or friends did not act according to max's needs. so i am still waiting to see some of the "hope" the movie's trailer mentioned.

i am reminded of Jesus' parable of the sower: a guy wanders the fields throwing grain here and there. some of the seed falls on fertile ground, spreads roots, and produces strong crops. other seed falls on rocky soil, grows too fast, and is scorched by the sun. still other seed falls on the path and is eaten by birds. was max ever visited by such a sower? are we still waiting for the seed to take root, was there once a time when max lived a healthy and fulfilling life? or have circumstances beyond his control determined his outlook on the world?

after he demolishes his sister's room, he returns to his bed, looking upon a globe his dad gave him. it's inscribed, "it's your world, max. love, dad." we can hope that max eventually learned the world is not his, it does not revolve around him, that we need others in our lives to help us feel whole-- even-- or maybe especially-- when they do not act as we always want or need them to.

one last word: this is not a kids movie. true, it's based on a children's story, and the book if fine, but this movie was not made for little "wild things."

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