Because Fox News and 42 Inch Television obviously go hand-in-hand, it should come as no surprise that I was a guest on Fox and Friends. Oh wait, no: that is a big surprise!
Thanks to my participation in the New York Times "Room for Debate" blog on Where the Wild Things Are, I was invited to go on Fox News to debate whether or not Spike Jonze's new film is too scary for youngsters. True story!
If you missed it, the video is online. You can watch it embedded below or follow this link. And make sure to read my thoughts in printed form after the jump!
Despite the fact that there are some harrowing moments in Where the Wild Things Are--particularly when young Max comes ashore amid violent whitecaps on what I'll call "Wild Things island"--you never get the impression that he's in any real danger.
The Wild Things are big and aggressive but they're also child-like and caring in their handling of Max. They make jokes about eating Max, but it never seems like a serious threat. They treat him the King he proclaims to be and go from there. Even when Carol--the ostensible leader and either a surrogate for Max or a stand-in for his father, depending on your interpretation--has meltdowns and gets violent, he's violent against inanimate objects.
All that said, the main reason why Where the Wild Things Are isn't scary is because Max never seems scared. He's upset and sad and angry--sometimes all at once--but fear never crosses his face. That's a fine line, and very nuanced for a kids' movie (oh that's right: this isn't a kids' movie!), but I think children would recognize that immediately. If he is their entry into this world and he never gets scared then why should they?
(Great credit for this should go to not only Spike Jonze but also child-star Max Records, who gives a wonderful performance throughout. In a crappy year for Best Supporting Actor contenders--Christoph Waltz and, uh, hmm--I'd love to see Records get some consideration.)
Moreover, when compared to other kids' movies, Where the Wild Things Are is literally child's play. Think about WALL*E, which basically depicted the end of humanity; or Up, which ends with a tension-filled finale that takes place in mid-air and features the young boy almost falling to his death multiple times. Kids' movies are serious stuff! See also: Bambi, Dumbo, and The Lion King. By comparison, Where the Wild Things Are is, in theory, a fun time. (I say "in theory" because I think it would actually bore kids, since Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers seem more interested in creating a mood of melancholy, nostalgia and innocence lost than something rollicking.)
Save the hand-wringing for something truly incendiary; the kids seeing Where the Wild Things Are will be alright, as the song says. So, let the wild rumpus start and enjoy the show.