Max on the Island of Misfit Monsters

I had misgivings about a movie-length interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are, even in the hands of a capable director. The movie surpassed my expectations — it was far more of a disaster than I even imagined.

In this version of the story, Max (a far more troubled boy than the one in the book) escapes inside his imagination, but even his imagination is fraught with dysfunction. The wild rumpus ends in finger-pointing and shouting, and the next 90 minutes is more of the same, making it feel like nine hours. The monsters spend more time grousing over petty jealousies than capering. The ostensibly fun scenes are brutal. An ostensibly affectionate dog pile of monsters is shown to be suffocating. One of the monsters knocks sad-looking owls — supposedly her new best friends — out of the sky with rocks. Another monster gets an arm ripped off. Love is expressed through violence, anger through more violence. Everything anyone builds is destroyed. Max leaves the place even more miserable and damaged than it was when he found it.

It is common enough to say that this or that movie didn’t do justice to a book, but I’ve rarely felt that a movie did more injustice to its source material.

We do not know if Max’s supper is still hot, when he gets home, and I guess that’s all that needs to be said. Max is a miserable little boy, has a miserable time with miserable monsters, and comes home late to a meal that has (we are sure) become cold.

One thought on “Max on the Island of Misfit Monsters

  1. Thank you! What a total downer. Sendak should be rolling over in his grave (oh, wait, he’s alive and gave his blessings to Jonze. Oh, well).

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