Tonawanda News


October 22, 2009

COLUMN: Running with the 'Wild Things'

By Phil Dzikiy

This may be the closest I ever get to writing a parenting column.

I watched “Where the Wild Things Are” play to a packed house at the Regal Transit theater Friday night, and the audience demographics were all over the map, age-wise.

As one might expect, there were plenty of parents watching the movie with their children, but there were also lots of teenagers and a fair share of adults without kids, as well. You can count me in that last group — I attended with my wife and a couple of our friends.

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether “Where the Wild Things Are” is a good film for kids. Sure, it’s rated PG, and it stars a 9-year-old and a bunch of monsters, but many believe the film is better suited for nostalgic adults.

A number of those concerns come from Max’s behavior in the film. Early in the movie, Max lashes out a few times. At one point, he jumps up on the counter and soon thereafter, bites his mother. He then runs away, to the land (ahem) where the wild things are.

Now, it’s convenient for someone without children to present their child-rearing philosophies, but if your kid is going to turn into a monster after watching this movie, well, that’s not the movie’s fault.

As it turns out, “Where the Wild Things Are” doesn’t really fit into any convenient boxes marked “for kids” or “for grown-ups.” It’s for anyone willing to deal with raw emotions. It’s not a simple story with pop culture references and wacky sidekicks — it’s about the experiences of childhood.

American films like this are rare, perhaps due to a fear of such films being labeled as “immature.” On the animation front, as beloved as recent features from Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar may be, none of them are really about childhood. Disney retells old stories over and over, Dreamworks makes entertaining but fairly forgettable films, and though Pixar creates great original stories that often deal with certain aspects of childhood — toys or monsters in the closet — those stories are about the toys and the monsters, not the kids.

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