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Escape to the Movies: Where the Wild Things Are

By Shamus
on Saturday Oct 17, 2009
Filed under:


I know I read Where the Wild Things Are at some point in my childhood. Or at least, I know it was read to me. By now I can no longer recall the details or subject matter. It’s all gone. The only things left are those strange, imaginative, whimsical, and slightly disturbing images from the book, which I doubt I’ll ever forget. When I read it was being made into a movie I cocked my head to one side and squinted slightly at my monitor. What? I didn’t think that book was a story so much as an idea, like “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” or “Goodnight Moon”. How is that supposed to work as a movie?

It doesn’t really matter I guess. Someone did it, and it seems to have worked. I’m probably not going to see it in theaters, but I did find Movie Bob’s review to be thought-provoking:

Comments (23)

  1. pagan-gerbil says:

    “When I read it was being made into a book I cocked my head to one side and squinted slightly at my monitor.”

    I’d have squinted slightly too, it’s a bit old-news…

    That aside, I had the same reaction – we recently got the book for our little one and it’s probably not 60-minute material… let alone 90+!

  2. Wintermute says:

    I recently re-read the book, and there’s about 10 minutes of material there. But still, the trailer makes me very excited to see it, as it exactly matched my visual memories, and Spike Jonze can be a very good director when he can get past himself.

  3. Roy says:

    To be fair, there’s a lot of room for expanding on the material in the book, too. In the kid’s imagination, he spends a year just traveling to where the wild things are, and spends who knows how long having a wild rumpus with them. It definitely looks, at least from the previews, like it’s captured the sort of style and whimsy I remember about the book.

  4. Joshua says:

    Don’t you mean when you heard it was going to be made into a movie? I don’t think you’re old enough for when it was being made into a book.

  5. Telas says:

    My daughter’s asleep and close to waking, so no trailer for me.

    If I recall correctly, the entire plot was that the kid was bad, gets sent to his room without dinner, goes off gallivanting with furries, and comes back in time for his mom to forgive him and feed him a late dinner.

    I guess that’s more plot than, say, GI Joe.

  6. toasty says:

    “I guess that's more plot than, say, GI Joe.”

    This is a point. But GI Joe had more cool explosions! :p

  7. LintMan says:

    I’ll be taking my kids to see this sometime this weekend.

    I think that, like the last big kid’s-book-to-movie (“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”), the book is stronger on imagery and ideas than on plot or “stuff happening”. So the movie needs to add a lot of new material to flesh it out to feature length. From the reviews, though, it seems that, also like “Cloudy”, the “Wild Things”‘s creators manage to keep the new stuff from overwhelming or distorting the feel of what was in the book.

  8. Legendary Bard says:

    When my girlfriend saw this was being made into a movie, she proceeded to talk to me about how awesome it would be. Then I told her I had never read it.

    After a quick trip to the elementary school library (we’re Juniors in High School. Quite silly), I read it. It was fairly amusing.

    We’ll probably go see this sometime.

  9. elopingcamel says:

    A film adaptation is always its own thing–separate and independent from the original book source (I haven’t seen this film, yet, but am speaking from my experience with all/any film versions of books I have read). To compare them too closely is a waste of time. To expect an “accurate re-telling” of a story with any degree of exactitude is also somewhat ludicrous, because the mediums differ so greatly.

    From what I have seen thus far in the trailers, Spike Jonze has very successfully captured the mood and feel of “Where the Wild Things Are” as I remember it. For that I applaud him, and for that reason I am sure that I will enjoy it.

    There may be some magic number of book pages that directly corresponds to 90 minutes worth of exactitude in a film version, but apparently no author on Earth has ever found that number; all film versions have to either cut, add, or both.

    [unsought and unwanted rant complete]

  10. DaveJ says:

    Every thing I have heard of this movie makes it sound like it isn’t for children.

    That is to say that you should NOT take children to this movie.

  11. It’s not for young children. I saw it last night. I have mixed feelings about it, but that’s only because I have a 3 year old son named Max, who’s mildly autistic, and I worry that he’s going to be turning out like Max, so I view it strangely.

    I’d say kids of about the age of Max (11ish) would be fine, probably down to about 9 year olds.

    However, it’s an excellent movie. The plot is basically the same – he runs away instead of being sent to his room, ends up in the land of the Wild Things, and then becomes their king.

    It’s mostly about him coming to terms with being himself. The monsters are exceedingly well done. The voices fit great. It’s just all over a good movie, even if much of it is very melancholy.

    Also, if you remember the book at all, you’ll love it simply for seeing Max in his wolf suit, ith the crown and the scepter.

  12. Lambach says:

    @ elopingcamel, the book that coresponds exactly to the film version is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow along with the old disney version of the story.

  13. Avilan the Grey says:

    DaveJ… What do you mean? The movie is based on a book which is very much for childen.

  14. David V.S. says:

    Shamus, I expect you’ve already seen an earlier film adaptation of a Maurice Sendak book.

    By the way, Sendak’s version of King Grisly-Beard is a great addition to a childrens’ library.

  15. C. says:

    Avilan the Grey: go read the review over at io9.


    it’s mostly a positive review, but it does point out that people will either a) love it, or b) hate it, and that it really isn’t a children’s film.

    for people who are already talking about how a movie can’t be just like the book, i’d ask why you think that a ballet can be the same as a painting? both tell stories, but that doesn’t mean that they translate well to each other directly. they aren’t the same, so to treat them as though they were is silly.

  16. LanceWithAbee says:

    I’ve heard that the time it takes to read a book is how long a movie containing everything in the book would be to watch.

    Seems about right based on the novellas based on movies I’ve read.

  17. Avilan the Grey says:

    C: Ok, reading that review I can see what you mean. On the commentary section of the review though something caught my eye: “I saw it in the theatre with my 5 year old daughter who loves the book, and she really loved it” (paraphrasing). “I saw a lot of really young kids in the audience and it’s not a movie meant for small kids” (again, paraphrasing, same guy). To me the five is “very young”. This guy apparently means “very young” is 2-4 years old. Where I am going with this is this: Apparently a five year old can enjoy the movie, and personally the book was too scary (the illustrations makes the book, as most who ever read it as kids might remember :) )until I was about 7.

    Lanvewithabee: I think it is basically correct; hence laughing at those who still argue that everything in the LOTR trilogy should be in the movies…

  18. SatansBestBuddy says:

    Ah, MovieBob.

    There’s just something about watching his reviews that makes me feel smarter after seeing them, like I can apprciate a movie in a deeper sense than, “It’s good,” or, “It sucks.”

    Anyway, I haven’t read the book in so long that I’m not entirely sure I really have, and I’ll be skiping the theatre version because shelling out $20 (ticket + popcorn) I don’t have for a movie I’m about 10 years too old to be seeing by myself isn’t my idea of a good time.

    Will be checking out the DVD release, though.

  19. Neil Polenske says:

    The overall consensus is that it’s not a movie specifically FOR children, but ABOUT them, which I could have told you back when I found out who was directing the film, if not the trailer itself. What kid is going to recognize an Arcade Fire song?

  20. LintMan says:

    Well, I went to see it this weekend with my 3 kids (ages 6-9). I thought it was pretty good, and my kids seemed to all have enjoyed it, though in a less exhuberant way than they react after a typical kids movie. That’s not surprising, though – The beginning part of the movie before he goes to see the Wild Things is fairly straight drama (fortunately not long enough to lose their attention) and overall, the movie has sort of a bittersweet feel to it.

    My 6 year old daughter said afterward “it was a little scary in one part”, but it wasn’t enough so to make her come sit in my lap (which she usually does when scared in a movie).

  21. Blackbird71 says:

    So far as turning an illustrated short story geared for kids into a full-length movie, this is nothing new. As has been pointed out, the recent Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs falls into this category, but previous titles also include Jumanji, Zathura, and The Polar Express. Each of these contain very little actual detail to be made into a movie, and the conversion always involves a lot of “making stuff up.” I suppose this actually makes the conversion a bit easier, as it gives the creators room to work with, rather than being constricted by the details in the original work.

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