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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Where the Wild Things Are

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Actor Max Records as Max looks at James Gandolfini in character as Carol in a scene from "Where the Wild Things Are."
Though it's based on a children's book, and though objectionable elements are minimal, the intriguing fantasy Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.), which combines live action, puppetry and computer-generated animation, is hardly a film for kids.

Instead, director and co-writer (with Dave Eggers) Spike Jonze's subtle adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic tale—winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1964, the year after its first publication—is a wistful adult meditation on the interior struggles of youth.

Those battles are fought out within the mind and heart of Max (newcomer Max Records in a compelling performance), a rambunctious but lonely suburban 9-year-old whose excess energy is devoted to scaring his dog, pelting his older sister's friends with snowballs and generally driving his divorced mother (Catherine Keener) up the wall.
Yet Max is also vulnerable, as he shows when Mom seemingly neglects him in favor of some quiet time with her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo). Volatile Max's gentle pleas for attention quickly give way to a tantrum, and the resulting confrontation ends with him running away from home.

At this point, mundane reality is overtaken by the logic of dreams as Max—dressed in his favorite outfit, a fuzzy wolf costume, and seemingly undaunted by the fact that it's nighttime—enters a nearby wood, discovers an empty sailboat and promptly sets off across a vast body of water. After an arduous journey, he arrives at a mysterious island where bright bonfires mark the abode of the titular Wild Things.

This close-knit but emotionally unstable community of giants features a variety of personalities, each of whom reflects either some aspect of Max's real circumstances or of his unsettled psychological state.

Affectionate but easily offended Carol (voice of James Gandolfini), for instance, mirrors Max's yearning for love and security, while loner K.W. (voice of Lauren Ambrose)—who wavers between belonging to the group and spending time outside it, much to Carol's sorrow, since he secretly pines for her—represents both Max's adolescent sister, who seems to be abandoning their once-close relationship as she matures, and his own aspirations for independence.

There's a melancholy tone to the proceedings as we witness Max symbolically working through his Freudian conflicts via the constant squabbling and alternatively creative and destructive behavior of the Wild Things. Early on, Max is crowned their king on the strength of some fibs about his prowess. But his ready assurance that his rule will make everyone happy looks increasingly rash, since his every action manages to alienate one or another of his new subjects.

Though youngsters addicted to gadgets and demanding distraction will likely be bored, this delicate portrait of the fears and joys of growing up is calculated to charm viewers willing to invest the necessary concentration.

"Where the Wild Things Are" will be shown on both Imax and conventional screens.
The film contains occasional menace and a few mild oaths. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

****
 Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t need so much to talk about God but to allow people to feel how God lives within us, that’s our work.

 
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