Movie Trailer Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Yes, it’s true.  I’m reviewing a movie review.  But when you watch it, you’ll understand why.

Spike Jonze of “Being John Malkovich” fame (amongst other image-rich movies and videos) is directing a movie version of the Maurice Sendak classic, Where the Wild Things Are.

If you remember the book, it starts off with young Max being rather naughty, undoubtedly due to his age, perhaps his upbringing (considering he’s sent to bed “without eating anything” I guess questionable parenting may be involved here depending on your parenting philosophies).  Alone in his room, Max’s imagination takes him to the world of the Wild Things.  He’s their ruler (as any child would be) until he realizes he misses home, and he returns with relief back to his room and his waiting dinner.  Simple as it is, this classic has space between the words and the thoughts, gaps that allow for the reader’s own imagination to kick in.  

I’ve imagined a lot while reading this book to my 2 year-old, but never, in any of my readings, did I read between the lines, as Jonze seems to have done.  He fills in the blanks of the plot with the mortar of suspense and with the bricks of empathy.  He brings in heartache and glory, childhood fears and adult solutions.  

I bring this up because there is a lesson here about inferencing.  There is one here about mimicking, borrowing, and adapting style.

Read the book to your students.  And don’t limit it to elementary either.  The skills I’m talking about here are high-level indeed.  Have them then watch the trailer and discuss the blanks that were filled in.  Talk about author’s intent, and creative license.  Talk about tone and mood and plot.

Now, I’m not promising a great movie, but the trailer shows great promise.  Jonze is, after all, a great video director who may have thrown together a heck of a 2-minute short.  But it’s up to us as teachers to mine curriculum where we can, even in a land of wild things.

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