Monday, October 19, 2009

Filming Books

This weekend the film Where the Wild Things Are opened to good reviews and tons of news stories. It is arguably one of the most popular children's books. But I'm not sure if I want to see the movie. I'm interested in Spike Jonses' take on the book since he is such an unusual director but I have issues with taking a short, poignant story and turning it into an 90 minute movie. In order to flesh out the book, the filmmakers would need to add stuff--backstories of characters that describe their motivations. Do I really want to know all that stuff? Or, do I want my monsters to be what I make of them?

When I graduated from High School, a pastor gave a speech about Where the Wild Things Are. He told us that just as Max had looked into the monsters' yellow eyes, we too needed to face the problems we'll encounter along the way. I've always remembered his advice (even if I've not always followed it) and I think it's because the book itself is so timeless--the monsters have no names or motivations; they are what we make them. And, the theme of the "wild child" is universal. Sometimes we all have to make mischief of one kind and another.

But once we name the monsters and give them voices and opinions and problems of their own, the story becomes of a time. It is cemented in the psyche of today. And, honestly, if Mr. Sendak had wanted his monsters to have backstories, don't you think he would have written them?

Of course, and I realize that this may sound hypocritical, I love it when a children's book is adapted into a play. Perhaps because a stage is limited and therefore much still needs to be left to the imagination. Or, maybe because many adaptations of children's books are down either with the author's assistance or at least his or her approval. When the Kennedy Center adapted Judith Viorst's Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, she worked on the book along with a composer who wrote the songs.

I don't have an answer because I may just end up seeing Where the Wild Things Are if only because the reviews are so good. But I can't help thinking, why ruin a perfectly good book when there are so many original stories out there to tell. I took my kids to see Up and we all loved it. Make a movie like that.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is another favorite book they have turned into a film. I am definitely not going to see it. They have massacred it! My opinion is based solely on the previews so I might be, you know, wrong, but I doubt it.

Well, there's my rant with no conclusion. I guess I really just have questions: have you seen Where the Wild Things Are? Did you like it? Or are you going to skip it?


  1. i really do want to see it, though i will probably wait for the dollar theatre. i loved the book as a young boy and recently read it to my boys. i just hope it is good.

  2. I won't be able to resist, the shorts look stunning! I just hope they don't muck around too much with it because smaller children won't get a deep and meaningful back story and it is a kids book after all. It was indeed a collaboration though, 18 years they've been trying to get it off the ground,

  3. Anyone want to start a pool on how it takes to come to Broadway?

  4. I's like "Whaaaaat?"

    Brian is right, it will head to Broadway next.

    I wanna see "Good Night Moon".