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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Where the Wild Things Are

Modern adaptation of popular book captures childhood

Max (Mas Records) listens to KW (Lauren
Max (Mas Records) listens to KW (Lauren Ambrose) in the adventure film Where the Wild Things Are.
Spike Jonze directed this creative, bold and (thought-provoking) screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's immensely popular 1963 children's book. Max, a 9-year-old boy, feeling lonely and ignored at the end of a bad day, strikes out in anger at his mother and runs out of the house. He finds a boat and sails through stormy seas to an island where the Wild Things live — large beasts with horns and crooked teeth who are both scary and endearing. He becomes their king, romps through the forest with them and even directs the building of a fort. But eventually, realizing his limitations, Max decides to return home to his family.

That short plot synopsis doesn't come close to covering the layers and layers of meaning in this movie, which the director has said is not for children but about childhood. Max recognizes all his own inner dramas played out in the lives of the Wild Things, especially in the mood swings of the leader, Carol. Like a good fairy tale, this story helps us come to terms with the tricky emotions of fear, anger, envy and anxiety about abandonment. It's a haunting and soul-stirring reminder of the importance of developing emotional intelligence for dealing with a world that often doesn't live up to our expectations or dreams of freedom (Warner Bros.—PG).


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