No place is free of conflict and bad feeling, and no person has the power to make problems disappear. Where there is happiness — friendship, adventure, affection, security — there is also, inevitably, disappointment. That’s life.And by “rather liked,” I mean, “saw many points of agreement with what I said about the same topic.”
When you stop to think about it, this is a pretty strong message, and not what you might expect from children’s entertainment. But at the same time, this kind of honest, realistic assessment of human relationships has gone missing from far too many supposedly grown-up movies, which are almost hysterical in their eagerness to dispense comfort, sentimentality and neat, tidy endings.
However violent or foulmouthed they may be, most of these commercial entertainments offer soothing scenarios of wish fulfillment. Justice is served. The bad guys pay. Love conquers all. The naughty boys come home from their crazy adventures and find that their mommies still love them. (That’s a plot summary of “The Hangover,” by the way, not of “Where the Wild Things Are.”)
But things are much more complicated in some children’s movies, it seems, where the regressive infantilism of grown-up comedies and action pictures is answered by a grave precocity. A movie like “Where the Wild Things Are”…play[s] a kind of reverse dress-up, disguising adult anxieties in the costumes of innocent make-believe and fanciful spectacle.
It’s interesting that books created to look like picture books for adults are often simplistic and maudlin, even compared to picture books for kids. Yet this movie for adults created to look like a kid’s movie is complex and troubling.