A young boy has troubles in the real world so he runs away to a fantasyland, or rather a fantasy island. While there, he misses and learns to appreciate home. From Alice's Wonderland to Oz and Narnia, this is clearly not a new concept for a children's tale. While I love director Spike Jonze's imagination, heart, and free spirit, this is by far not the best kid movie I've seen.
I sat in a large theater, half-filled with children, and the only time there was a response was when Max, the little boy who escapes to the fantasyland, gets into a dirt-clod fight with the Wild Things, the upright-walking and talking animals who are like bobble head versions of various creatures.
That we gather is that each Wild Thing represents a different aspect of Max's personality. In the end, they ultimately are his inventions and therefore are pieces of him. It's like 9 but without all the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi undercurrents. The relationships they form are clearly representative of the relationships Max has with his mother, sister, and peer group.
Yes, the Wild Things are reflections of Max, and it's through them that he realizes stuff about himself. Prior to Max's sea voyage to where the Wild Things are, he frustrates a few people, his mother in particular. They fight actually. Max throws a bit of a tantrum. He wants to run, scream, and throw things.
His mom, played by Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener, fosters his creativity. Max likes to make up stories, but she can't deal with Max's tantrum, which results in him literally acting like a wild animal. Max can't deal with his mom and her new boyfriend so he flees to the fantasyland.
It's there that he meets about a half-dozen or so large, human-like animals with whom he instantly identifies. Through anxious manipulation, Max becomes their king. The lie he uses is an obvious ploy that one knows immediately will be Max's undoing. It's a tired, cinematic trick, one at which I rolled my eyes. Actually, I just sighed.
Max has fun with the Wild Things. They run. They howl. They crash into things. They jump, fall, and pile on each other. Again, it's all cute. The film then tries to create conflict between the various Wild Things. Their conflicts mirror the feelings and issues Max had in the real world. The conflicts seem to have depth, but at the core of each is just that of a child selfishly needing attention.
Because Max's mother is clearly a single mom, issues of divorce and abandonment, as it affects a child, loom overhead without being apparent. Whether that's what Max is grappling is never made clear. We just assume that Max is a wild child who has to act out his aggressions every now and then. If that's the case, then the setup was pretty pointless.
Two Stars out of Five
Rated PG for some action and brief language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.