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Carnochan, P. (2010). Where the Wild Things are directed by Spike Jonze, Warner Brothers, 2009; 101 min.. Fort Da, 16(2):99-108.

(2010). Fort Da, 16(2):99-108

Where the Wild Things are directed by Spike Jonze, Warner Brothers, 2009; 101 min.

Reviewed by
Peter Carnochan, Ph.D.

Imagining Max

Where the Wild Things Are is, as Max says about the fort he and the Wild Things will build, the “most awesome” movie ever!! Except that's not what Max says in the movie; it's what I thought he said. When I reviewed that part, it turns out that what Max says is, “First we're going to build the perfect fort, because we have to be realistic.” That's a pretty good line, almost awesome, but it doesn't work as well with my review. So maybe Where the Wild Things Are is only a really, really good movie, but not quite the most awesome movie ever. Or maybe it's a perfectly realistic movie. You'll have to decide for yourself whether you can forgive it that limitation.

Go see this movie, then read this review. I'm going to tell the movie's secrets and I would wish for you the pleasure of seeing them first. Where the Wild Things Are, a creation of David Eggers and Spike Jonze, is an imaginative extension of Maurice Sendak's perfect book of the same title. They have taken up the challenge of imagining the backstory of Max's family, and how it might have left him feeling rather wild. They allow themselves to create characters for the Wild Things and to imagine what the relationships are like on their wave-swept island. It's risky business taking liberties with a classic, but, to my mind, they succeed in finding the heart of Sendak's story and making it more fully realized.

When I was a boy I loved Sendak's book. Its understanding of wildness and forgiveness (as represented by the supper that was still hot) mattered to me. My freshman year of college, feeling a bit out of my water, I got a copy of the book, cut out the pages, and made a comic strip around my room. As an undergraduate I started working with wild children at a summer program for disturbed kids in the New Hampshire woods.

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