This afternoon Kathy and I went to see the movie of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. We were the only adults in the cinema who were not accompanied by children. 

I wrote in April: if the director and producers have been able to resist the Hollywood temptation to tamper too much with the story, especially either by making the wild things ‘cute’ or by making Max (the hero) into some sort of spoilt adolescent with problems at home, it should be a magical movie.

There are three things to say.

  1. Where the Wild Things Are is not a children’s movie.
  2. It will not be a commercial success.
  3. It is a very good film.

It is a little scary in places, but that is not the reason it is not a children’s film.

The book is intended for young children. The film is too long and too slowly paced to hold the interest of anyone under forty. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, though one family did leave about an hour in.

Jonze and Sendak collaborated on the script and have produced a remarkable palimpsest of Sendak’s book.

The book was funny, scary, and engaging. The film is all of these things and more. It is the ‘more’ which makes this such a good movie, and also not a children’s movie.

Essentially, the film is a parable about what the world means to a boy, any boy (but definitely a boy), and about how a boy can or should relate to that world.

The wild things seem to represent different aspects of Max’s personality. The goat, the chicken, the bull, the scary unidentifiable things.

This is just asking for a book – Which Wild Thing are You? – How to Release Your Inner Power.

The answer is that Max, and all of us, are all of the wild things. We are cowards, we are destructive, we are angry, we are hungry, we are brave, we are creative, we are kind.

In the course of his adventure, Max learns how his words and actions impact on other people. He learns about love, and that actions have consequences, and that some things cannot be undone.

That should give you a hint that the lefties, I suspect, will not like this film. Their dislike will intensified by the fact that there is not a hint of  greenie bovine manure in the movie.

Trees are knocked over with glee, violence sometimes solves problems (and causes them), throwing dirt at people’s heads is the best way to have fun together, and if you happen to have a small animal in your hand instead of a lump of dirt, well, chuck it anyway.

Despite the life lessons, and Max learns many valuable things, Where the Wild Things Are is never preachy.

I laughed out loud, and had tears in my eyes at the end. The kids around me just looked bored.

It is a great film. Go and see it. Just don’t expect your children to enjoy it. Not till they get to forty, anyway.