I know... it's been forever. And I post about movies that are months old to boot. I figure, some content is better than none, and I actually have a hook behind publishing for a change.
Recently, my family watched the two films in the title in a sort of all-day movie marathon. I am taken by both the similarities of both movies as well as the differences and the choices. I will lay them all out below:
1) Where the Wild Things Are -- 2009
Budget: $100 Million
Length: 100 minutes
I've read more than a few reviews of this movie. Many of the reviews said that this was a movie more for grownups, though we let our elementary-school children watch this movie. I can see why they say that. The book has terrific art yet a somewhat uncomfortable story of a boy who is very rambunctious and gets in trouble. In the book, it is his imagination that takes him to where the Wild Things are... in the movie, it's not quite that clear. The movie is a bit dark... when you animate Wild Things though, they have to have some sort of danger attached or they wouldn't be very wild. The Wild Things are very much reflections of Max's inner moods and demons. The movie itself gets very uncomfortable quite often.
The reviewers praised the movie, saying that it was a ride through childhood and reflects that childhood isn't the prosaic existence that many people may remember. I know my childhood was certainly rocky at times too, but the level of conflict and unevenness really is off-putting. My children did not like the movie, and I can agree with them. The biggest draw in the book is the art for me... and while the Jim Henson Creature Shop did the best they could, it just couldn't match the lushness of Sendak's art in the book.
This is a movie that I was happy to watch, but only once. I will implement a new review system here to kind of show my level of interest in movies, a one-to-four scale with a bit of blur in the middle steps...
1.I wouldn't watch it even if it was halfway through on TV.
2.I would watch it if it was on, but not intentionally cue it up.
3.I would get the tape and watch it occasionally
4.I would get the tape and watch it often.
(Please note that if a movie has a Rifftrax associated with it, I will give two ratings, one for the movie itself and one for the movie+Rifftrax.)
With that said, this movie was a definite 1. It's the definition of a 1, in that I would at least suggest that others watch it exactly once just to see if it's their bag, but it certainly isn't mine.
So, with that said, on to the second movie!
2)The Gruffalo -- 2009
Budget: possibly $3 million?
Length: 30 minutes
This was the second movie of the set, and it was also based on a children's book with an unreal character. I suppose you can call me partial to animation, but I honestly felt more involved in this production than in Where the Wild Things Are. The art was very engaging and interesting, and even as the little mouse spun his tales of the fantastic Gruffalo I was not put off as much as when Max was promoting dirt-clod fights by throwing the clods into Things' heads. The Gruffalo was ugly but humorous, and the voices were terrific. To be truthful, the voices were probably two-thirds of the budget, but I still enjoyed the animation.
Additionally, the length of time was just good enough to capture little attention spans. My children definitely enjoyed this movie over the previous one.
My rating would be a solid 2.5 to 3. I would absolutely sit down to watch it, and as it's half-an-hour, I would not mind watching it with my children again.
I wrote this post though to compare and contrast a bit though. One is a massive Hollywood production and a bit of a vanity project for director Spike Jonze (and even a bit for producer Tom Hanks). The other is a BBC One television production. One had a script vastly expanded from the source material, and one was fairly faithful. One was moved into live-action and had painstaking work done to make the creatures come alive... and the other had creatures come alive through the non-reality of animation.
Ultimately, I wish Hollywood would do more to focus on making stories more honest, straightforward, and enjoyable to the children that they are trying to tell stories to. It is very incongruous to make a movie out of a children's book and tell everyone that it's only for adults, and while I see many of the critic's comments about the struggle of childhood and the monsters in our own moods, it doesn't make it enjoyable. I used to harp on audience many times back in the days when MSTing authors would present MSTings for C&C, and I wish that Hollywood would take this into consideration more often too.