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Friday, March 20, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are: The Movie

The latest children's classic to be headed to the big screen is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Am I alone in thinking that some things should simply be left in their pure, original form?

As a teacher I fully understand the argument that some classic works must be adapted in order to resonate with modern audiences. Critics may claim that Shakespeare, for example, must be reinterpreted (or reimagined) in order to be understood and appreciated by today's youth.

That is why I particularly enjoy a performance such as Kenneth Branagh's in Henry V (see below). The words are unchanged but their meaning made clear by the acting, the editing, and the accompanying score.

For those who love the "band of brothers" theme but feel that the original is inaccessible to today's audience? Well, take the theme and run with it. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg chose Band of Brothers as the title for their excellent HBO miniseries on the 101st Airborne; the speech itself appears prominently (and respectfully) in Danny DeVito's Renaissance Man, and certainly a derivation of its themes appear in Mel Gibson's speech to his men before the Battle of Stirling in Braveheart. In none of those films is the message dumbed down.

Okay, that's Shakespeare. So do we really need a movie to make this classic children's book accessible to modern audiences? No. So I'm guessing that it's simply meant as a film interpretation. And perhaps as a teacher I'm supposed to happy, since it might encourage more children to get out and read. But considering that the book, after several decades, is still in the top 200 at Amazon, I don't think our children are having difficulty comprehending it.

My earnest desire is to be proved wrong. I really hope this movie does justice to the book's art, simplicity, and motifs. Please don't blow it.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. They have ruined some of my favorite stories by changing the story to put on the big screen. I hated the movie "The City of Ember" They made it totally stupid.

Keith Schoch said...

I hera ya on that one. Just a few movies, like Because of Winn Dixie, Shawshank Redemption, and the recent Narnia movies have gotten it right. (Although there are some who would have a fist fight with me about those as well).

April Driggers said...

I wonder if it's that they feel things have to be "dumbed down" to suit the new culture. Shakespeare does NOT need to be changed one iota from it's original state. It's brilliant and moving and dramatic and wonderful in it's unaltered form and it should remain that way. If anything, remake the same script with modern actors and special effects, but leave the words alone.

I wonder, too, if they're just out of ideas so they feel they're going to ride on the coat tails of successful books.

Does there really need to be a sequel to EVERYTHING out there? Ugh!

Keith Schoch said...

Well articulated, April! I agree with you point for point. If what I've seen on You Tube as the "tests" of this movie are for real, then we will all be disappointed to even a greater degree than I had previously imagined.

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