I saw that some movie critics have placed Where The Wild Things Are on their lists of bests not just from the past year, but best of the past decade. This strikes me as lacking decade-long perspective. On the other hand I perhaps underestimate the depth of childhood psychological injury the movie may reactivate in some people. WTWTA is a deep biopsy into the soul of childhood.
Max is a hyper-sensitive, hyper-imaginative 10-year-old who imagines a long journey from loneliness at home to an island populated by ugly but welcoming adult-sized monsters. The monsters make Max their king and set to work building a Utopian fortress where enemies risk getting their brains split. But determining who to trust is complicated by the fact that each monster is a facet of Max’s impetuous personality. Max learns that dividing the universe into teams of good guys versus bad guys is insufficient criteria among emotionally complex beings. Once Max realizes that this is a reality of growing up, he knows its time to leave the island, to return home.
It would be a mistake to brush off Where The Wild Things Are for its failings and not acknowledge its visual accomplishments, its compelling immersion into a fantasy place, and its attempt to treat children’s anxieties with sincerity. Part of me understands why people have such a personal reaction, most of me doesn’t really care for the subject matter. I knew creepy kids like Max when I was child and I avoided them. I was/am not interested in the deserts, forts, and creepy alter egos of hyperactive children. But if you’re entertained by it, enjoy yourself and take your Prozac.