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.