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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I knew a big-screen version of Maurice Sendak's immortal WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is on its way, but I'd forgotten all about it — more like repressed the memory — until recently when I came across this:

It's due in theaters this Fall and I weep when I think of how colossally wrong this could go. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (1963) is a beloved children's book for very good reason and it has a certain primal magic and joy to it that I seriously doubt will translate to the multiplex arena. Even though the book has pictures, the images allow the young reader's mind to place their own interpretation on the individual Wild Things and that is part of the fun; I can't speak for anyone else, but when that book was first read to me as a very young child I had in my head a very clear picture of how those creatures moved, smelled and, most especially, sounded like, and I've been told by many now-grownups that they had much the same experience. Some of us even felt that the long-haired Wild Thing, widely considered a female, was instead a "theatrical" artiste-type, so it was all open to interpretation (thanks to my friend since childhood, Roger, for putting that one in my head).

Now comes another Hollywood adaptation of a children's classic that will more than likely follow in the toxic footsteps of the big-screen versions of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, the odious THE CAT ON THE HAT and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the CGI animated HORTON HEARS A WHO. Each of these films robbed the source material of the fun and wonder that the stories overflowed with — especially THE CAT IN THE HAT; if you love your children, do not let them see that movie. It is tantamount to child abuse and should be prosecuted as such — and of all the short form books I enjoyed as a child WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is the last one I would wish this sort of treatment upon. There is a very real and special magic to that book and to have it turned into a piece of mass-marketed prostitution fills me with feelings I'm at a loss to properly articulate.

I'm rambling, so I'll just sum up with this: parents, before the movie comes out please sit down with your little ones and read them WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. That act will probably in no way curb their interest in seeing its wonders translated to moving and speaking action on the big screen, but you will at least have done your job and shared that special moment with your kids before Hollywood gives them a version processed for use with Happy Meal tie-ins and disposable plastic merchandise. The hearts and minds of children are not disposable and the mass media dream-makers would do well to remember that.


Anonymous said...

Spike Jonze is doing it, isn't he? That gives me hope.

I'm not passing judgment until I see it. Even if they're not perfect, sometimes classic kids book adaptations rock (the "Harry Potter" series, some of Roald Dahl's stories for children, "The Wizard of Oz," "Little House on the Prairie," "National Velvet," "A Little Princess" (either one), "Mary Poppins," and loads more). In some cases, seeing the films/shows made me want to read the books from which they were adapted. Once kids glom onto something, they tend to seek out every resource they can to learn more about it and further enhance and prolong their enjoyment. Didn't you do that? Isn't that what a large portion of the Vault is dedicated to?

It seems to be you've had you heart broken by too many crappy adaptations of things you loved, but if you don't keep an open mind, you'll blind yourself to the possibility of something good coming your way.

That said, I hope it doesn't suck.

Bunche said...

You'll note that with the exceptions of the Harry Potter films (which frankly bored me to tears; I gave up after the third one) and the second Little Princess, all of the films you listed were made over forty years ago. My gripe with kid's films adapted from books these days is that CONTEMPORARY filmmakers are reducing beloved kid's stories to mere product. If they can pull off a good adaptation I'm all for it, but my opinion has indeed been shaded by too many lousy adaptations and the thought of seeing that happen to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE just sticks in my craw.

And why do people insist on sending in comments anonymously? I don't care of people don't want their real names used, but please come up with a fake name that can be recognized as a regular reader/commentator.

Satyrblade said...

Agreed, although I would add Schrek, Spiderwick Chronicles and Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to the list of kids' books adapted well recently and Stuart Little and The Polar Express to those done badly. The choice of Spike Jonze does indeed portend better things for this film than, say, Shat in the Hat, but I'm with you on the disgust. When Zack Snyder counts his biggest reason for doing Watchmen as the atrocity it would have been if he HADN'T, it's time to place a moratorium on Hollywood's grave-robbing tendencies before they ruin something like, say, Goodnight Moon or The Giving Tree.

Kevie said...

Another one bites the dust: Via my toddler, I've been watching HBO's "Harold and the Purple Crayon" series. It's perfectly well-done, serviceable animated product, it's narrated by Sharon Stone, and as of now I never want to see that fucking book ever again.

I don't think they're ever going to stop until everything charming and unique in the world has been pimped out to within an inch of its fucking life.

Mzilla said...

Watched the trailer last night. My usual gripe about anything is the monsters, which they seem to have gotten EXACTLY RIGHT. I recognized all the characters from the book, and seeing them move around they have the exact sort of weight I imagined them having (roughly as big as Sweeetums from the Muppets). In a perfect world, the adaptation would be exactly as long as the book, and serve as a perfect companion piece. However this is Hollywood, so the script is going to be longer, and that's where my interest wanes. But I too have faith in Spike Jonze, and this doesn't come across as cashing in on a kids property to me. I feel some love behind this adaptation. Could be wrong, but I'm not writing it off just yet.