Tomorrow, the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are opens in theaters.
Our house is torn.
On one hand, it looks awesome! Spike Jonze appears to have done a great job capturing the spirit of the book. And the monsters look like updated versions of Sid and Marty Krofft characters combined with Jim Henson’s creatures in the Dark Crystal, not to mention remaining very true to Sendak’s original drawings.
It’s safe to say that it’s receiving mixed reviews. But out of the 46 compiled by Rotten Tomatoes, 63% are positive. Most of the negative comments say something about whether or not Sendak’s nine sentence picture book was substantial enough to merit a feature length film.
Which brings us to the other hand…
One of the things that my wife is passionate about is children’s literature and how important it is for parents to read to their kids. We both have claimed for years that Where the Wild Things Are ranks high on both of our lists of favorite children’s books. We have bought it for friends that were expecting and own multiple copies ourselves. It is simply a wonderful book.
Yes, it is only nine sentences long. Yes, it is classified as a “picture book”. But the story is deep and nuanced, dealing with topics that hadn’t really been touched previously in the medium. What’s not spelled out on the pages is just as important, if not more so, than what is. It’s about how children deal with difficult situations, anger, and the reality that life isn’t always rosy. How sometimes we deal with our emotions by escaping into fantasy and our imaginations. But at the end of the day we have to come home to the warm embrace of someone who loves us.
It is always difficult when someone wants to take something so beloved by so many, and update it for a younger and more modern audience. People like us are adamant that these things don’t really need updating. The next generation simply needs to be exposed to it in the same way that we were. The book itself is a brilliant work of art and shouldn’t be perverted by making it into something that it was never intended to be for the sake of making another buck.
I understand these arguments and for the most part agree with them. But every time I see a preview or a trailer for the movie adaptation, my heart beats a little bit faster and I can’t fight the desire to see it.
Like I said before, it looks awesome!
Now, convincing my strong-willed, traditionalist, Kindergarten teaching wife to see it with me is a whole other story!