Literature: Where the Wild Things Are
"Let the wild rumpus start!"Where the Wild Things Are
is a children's book by late Maurice Sendak. It was originally panned by critics, but has since become a beloved classic
In the book, Max is an angry little boy in a wolf costume who can't control his emotions and is sent to his room. There he is (depending on your interpretation
) transported to/imagines a world populated by semi-feral monsters and is crowned their king because of his wild emotions. At first happy, he eventually grows tired of acting like a wild animal and goes back home.
There are two film adaptations, the more recent one directed by Spike Jonze
of Being John Malkovich
fame with a soundtrack by Karen O
In the Spike Jonze film, Max is an angry little boy in a wolf costume who is very intelligent and resents that his sister feels too old to spend time with him and that his mother's life is too busy to give him the attention he desires. This causes a conflict that ends with him running away to an island populated by semi-feral monsters who crown him king out of a need for someone to take care of them and their emotional needs. Unlike in the book, the monsters all have their individual characteristics and personalities that are usually in some way a reflection of portions of Max's personality. Although Max tries his best, eventually he realizes he loves the monsters but cannot be the leader or parent they need and returns home to his mother with a better appreciation of what she goes through. Most of the following tropes will deal with the film version (see Adaptation Expansion
Provides Examples Of:
- A Boy and His X: A Boy and His Tribe of Monsters.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: All of the monsters.
- Scenery Porn: Both the original's illustrations and the film has this a lot.
- Shout-Out: Not an example within the book/movie itself, but it was given multiple shout outs in Alt-J's song Breezeblocks (to the point where the entire bridge goes "please don't go, I'll eat you whole, I love you so.")
Specific to the book:
- No Name Given: All of the monsters. Sendak had names that never appeared in the book for some of them — Tzippy, Aaron, Moishe, Bruno, Emile, Bernard — but never gave a name to the goat in the books or art (he's just referred to as Goat Boy).
Specific to the film:
- Adaptation Distillation: Three of the monsters from the book (counting the sea monster) do not appear in the movie. The seven they use are quite enough.
- Adaptation Expansion: Pretty much required, as the original book was only ten sentences long.
- Berserk Button:
- Mention any idea you have to Carol that could imply breaking up the clan of monsters, and may God have mercy on your soul!
- He also reacts badly on being lied to.
- Big Brother Bully: Carol towards the rest of the Wild Things. It becomes clear towards the end of the film that he's exactly the kind of person Max will become if he doesn't try to fix his problems; a self-centered, bitter Mood-Swinger who's bursts of violence and abuse bring harm to his family.
- Blatant Lies: Max's claims of being a king. Unsurprisingly it turns out that pretty much all of the monsters had him figured out from the get go.
- Butt Monkey: Alexander, the one whom no one cares about.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Bob and Terry. To Max and Carol, they are simply The Unintelligible.
- Ironic Echo: In the beginning of the movie, Max runs away from home after his mom says he was out of control after he bit her. By the end, Max says that Carol is out of control after Carol ripped off Douglas' arm. Max then runs away, and the same music plays as did in the earlier scene.
- Jitter Cam: The movie is more or less shot by someone really hopped up on Red Bull.
- Logo Joke: Each of the logos are static, and have apparently been drawn on by Max. The WB logo has a "wild thing" sort of shape drawn around it, with Max scribbling over the Time Warner byline and replacing it with his name. The Legendary Pictures logo has Max drawing a monster eating it. The Village Roadshow logo has Max turning the logo into his own name, with the "V" becoming an upside down "A", and a crude sword along the bottom of the logo.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Max, and ALL of the Wild Things with the vice being raging emotions.
- Mythology Gag: Perhaps not intentional, but Alexander's character was the only one who didn't get a nickname from the writer. In the movie, he's ignored by everyone to the point where he might as well not exist.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for the 2009 film pretty much shows Max having fun/goofy adventures with the titular Wild Things. The actual film, however, is pretty depressing.
- No Name Given: The bison/bull in the movie. Bernard, per the credits and one brief line.
- Only Sane Man: The Monsters' voice of reason is Alexander. Too bad nobody ever listens to him.
- Reality Ensues: The ending makes it clear that pretty much all of the Wild Things aside from Carol, Judith, and Ira figured out Max was lying about being a king. And those three were simply in denial. Douglas and Alexander admit that they both knew he was lying from the start and only went along with it because they saw how happy it made Carol.
- Sadist Teacher: Max's class on astronomy drifts off into a discussion on how everything is going to die, and a list of all the ways all of humanity could be wiped out, delivered cheerfully obliviously to a class of 9-year-olds.
- Max's mom also has a phone conversation with a "Mr. Lasseter". Back in the 80s John Lasseter attempted to make a WTWTA movie with Disney. It would have been one of the earliest examples of CGI in film, featuring traditionally animated characters in 3D CGI environments.
- There's a scene where Max is being shown his "kingdom", which is a pretty obvious reference to The Lion King. Some of the dialogue is very similar to that scene, as well.
- Some Call Me Tim: The monsters are Carol, Ira, KW, Judith, Douglas, Alexander, and Bernard.
- Stepford Smiler: The Wild Things in general but especially Carol. KW flat out tells Max that life on the island gets difficult but the others are in denial over it.
- Swallowed Whole: When KW swallows Max so he can hide from Carol.
- Teens Are Monsters: Downplayed. Claire's friends don't wreck Max's snow fort out of malice but out of playing too hard for the smaller kid. They even look genuinely upset when they realize what they've done — but are much too self-conscious to apologize.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Both the female wild things have long hair.