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.
And to that, “Where the Wild Things Are” is an alternative. Parents who may have valid concerns about the darkness of the material or the sadness of the characters will make a decision on their own, but here’s some help: I didn’t hear any crying from the kids in the audience when I was in the theater, though I did hear some laughing and gasping.
Yes, Max is a bit unruly, and younger children may not understand how his character learns his lessons through the course of the film, but when I have children, “Where the Wild Things Are” will be on the must-see list once they’re old enough to follow along.
I maintain that it’s good for children to be a bit unsettled at points in their upbringing. Not shaken to the core, mind you, but every child should be given opportunities to expand his horizons, even at a young age. “Where the Wild Things Are” is a creative film. It is rebellious and imaginative. None of these are bad things.
I’d compare “Wild Things” to two of my other favorite films about childhood, “E.T.” and “The 400 Blows.” While “E.T.” is for children of all ages and “The 400 Blows” is a childhood film for adults, “Wild Things” is probably somewhere in between.
But they’re all great.
And to those who think Pixar would never disrupt pure sensibilities, have you seen the studio’s last two films? “WALL-E” was about an overweight, pollution-ridden dystopian future, and “Up” tells the entire story of a marriage — all the way to a spouse’s death — in the first 10 minutes of the film.
As for the overall quality of “Wild Things,” I’ll just say this. After watching “500 Days of Summer,” I thought my top movie of the year was set in stone. But now, I’m not so sure.
By Phil Dzikiy
- MOVIES: ‘Avatar’ rules with $68.3M, tops $1B worldwide James Cameron’s science-fiction epic “Avatar” had another stellar weekend with $68.3 million domestically, shooting past $1 billion worldwide, only the fifth movie ever to hit that mark.
- MOVIES: Best of the Decade
- MOVIES: Winter movie preview The winter movie season is really two seasons in one.
- 'The Blind Side' tops box office in third weekend Sandra Bullock’s latest movie has taken the industry by surprise.
- MOVIES: Carrey’s ’Christmas Carol’ wraps up $31M weekend Jim Carrey’s Scrooge collected holiday donations from movie fans with his new take on “A Christmas Carol,” which took in $31 million to open as the weekend’s top movie.
- COLUMN: Running with the 'Wild Things' This may be the closest I ever get to writing a parenting column.
- MOVIES: ‘Chance of Meatballs’ tops weekend box-office The forecast was bright at the box-office for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which earned $30.1 million to lead this weekend’s films.
- MOVIES: Fall preview Hollywood might be telling its own life story this fall, presenting a lineup of liars, phonies, smooth talkers, bloodsuckers and greedy old men.
- MOVIES: Pitt, Tarantino’s ‘Basterds’ earns glorious $37.6M The war effort by Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt has paid off as their history lesson “Inglourious Basterds” claimed victory at the box office with a $37.6 million debut.
- MOVIES: ‘G.I. Joe’ rolls to box-office victory with $54.7M “G.I. Joe” has claimed the box-office spoils of war with a $54.7 million opening weekend for the action flick based on the Hasbro toys.
- More Movies Headlines