What The F**k Was Up With Where the Wild Things Are?
March 12, 2013
(The shortened opening is shown, with the caption "Editoral" not written in all caps since then)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Question: What the fuck was up with Where the Wild Things Are?
(The book is shown, before clips from the movie are shown)
NC (vo): The children's book about a boy who makes believe he goes to an island of monsters is celebrated by kids and families everywhere. So when the film was coming out with its dark, gritty look and helmed by acclaimed director Spike Jonze, people got excited as hell. And after it finally premiered, what did the public think?
(Cut to a clip of Clone High, where people in the cinema are stunned before going, "huh")
NC (vo): It wasn't hated, but it wasn't loved either. People just didn't know what to think of it. My opinion? Personally, not only do I think it was an incredible movie, but I think it's one of the best films to come out of the past few decades. Why? Because I think it best understands more than any other film the dramatic and potent mindset of a child's psychology.
NC: What do I mean by that pretentiousness?
NC (vo): Well, let's look at the boy's life. We know that his parents are separated. We know that his sister cares for him but doesn't always show it while trying to keep up with appearances. His mother looks after him but is trying to have a life of her own. And he is more than an emotional handful. Oh, and we also know one other important element: he's extremely imaginative, to a point where he creates worlds to retreat to and other creatures to interact with. And in the middle of one of his more emotional moments, he stays in one of his fantasy-worlds and decides he wants to stay there possibly forever. Now, this is where most people starts to get confused, the world he lives in doesn't make a whole lot of sense. For example, they'll just beat stuff up, run around like crazy, and only say things like "He gets it!" or "Did you know the sun was gonna die?". Yeah, strange conversations and dialogues that have little to no segues. In fact, most of the world has no segues. One minute, they're in a forest; the next, they're in the desert. But in order to really understand this, I ask you to go back to when you were a kid. Not when you were with friends, not when you were watching TV, but when you were all alone. No matter who we were, there was always a time when we wanted to be alone. Why? We wanted to figure stuff out, but the twist is we didn't know that we were figuring stuff out. We thought we were only being sad or being happy or just playing. A lot of times, though, we were trying to make sense of things, and the way many kids do that is through imagination.
(Cut to an image of three little girls)
NC (vo): Sometimes, we talked to our friend.
(Cut to an image of a boy playing with a toy)
NC (vo): Other times, we talked to our toys. But we forget, too, that...
(Cut back to Wild Things)
NC (vo): ...many times, we simply talked to ourselves. We made up places we could go and people we could talk to. And it isn't just really lonely kids that did this; every kid did this at some point. They could be obvious, like...
(Cut to an edit of a girl being laughed at by a boy; the girl then reappears dressed as Wonder Woman to punch the boy while saying "Jerk.")
NC (vo):: ...if somebody did something we didn't like, we could imagine getting revenge...
(Cut to an image of a little girl in a fairy costume)
NC (vo): ...or if we thought ugly, we could imagine ourselves looking beautiful; obvious fixed-up scenarios.
(Cut back to the movie)
NC (vo): But sometimes, we didn't know how to feel, what to do, or who to turn to. And in some of those instances, we just made up places and people to bounce our emotions off of. The worlds and scenarios didn't always make sense, but... they didn't have to. You weren't trying to tell a story, perform a piece, or please anyone. This was your world to look and feel however you wanted it to look and feel, and because of that, the world you create often runs on more emotion and less logic. This is the world our main character has created: When he wants to feel accepted, he'll create a scenario where he is accepted. When he wants to play, he'll create a scenario where he plays. If he's tired after playing, he'll have all his new friends take a nap with him. Their justification lies in whatever mood he's in. I think the best way to explain this is, imagine these characters being replaced with something you strongly connected with as a kid; like maybe...
(Images of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Barbie dolls and Life with Louie are shown)
NC (vo): ...Ninja Turtles, or Barbie, or Life with Louie. I don't know, I'm sure somebody watched that! It's your comfort zone where you know you can go no matter how you feel.
NC: Now, keeping that in mind: What happens in the movie?
NC (vo): The kid runs away to his fantasy world, and at first, it's great. But slowly, the world starts to turn against him. Suddenly, things go sad and bitter. There's no logical reason why, it just seems like everything that should be good is suddenly falling apart. And that is one of the great things about the movie: it doesn't make it obvious what everything is. It's not like one monster represents his dad or another monster represents his mom or sister. You could argue there's heavy leanings towards them, but no one creation represents one element. For example, Carol could be a mix of his father, his own insecurities, his fears, his hopes... and the feelings are the exact same way; they're not spelled out. Maybe the kid can be feeling something as basic as, he just wants to return home, even though it's not perfect and can be painful sometimes. But he doesn't know that's what he's going through, he just knows a world that was supposed to be great is now turning angry and cold. And he's going through his own realizations of how to feel with the troubles going on in his life. This is pretty much the kid's therapy: it's how he gets through his problems, and all of us have had a time where this is how we got through our problems as well. We just didn't know that's what we were doing. Because of that, the movie doesn't hit you on the head with it. It lets the emotions define the reality, and I bet if you really give yourself to what this kid is feeling, you'll remember very similar and powerful emotions, the same you had as a child, too. Just because the worlds and characters you created weren't real doesn't mean the emotions you felt weren't real, either; they were very real, so real that they almost felt solid. And that's what this movie does: It gives you that solid world where your emotions combine with your imagination.
(Cut to alternating footage of The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
NC (vo): Some films do have a similar emphasis on emotion, like Wizard of Oz draws much from your hopes and dreams as well as your fears and nightmares. And a lot of the early Disney films would put logic aside to fulfill those emotional needs as well. And if you remember being really young and watching those movies, you'll remember there was a time where you didn't always comprehend what was going on, but you understood what the characters were feeling and going through, almost like they spoke a language that was purely emotion. But as you got older, you realized that they did have stories that, for the most part, lived in a logical world.
(Cut back to Where the Wild Things Are)
NC (vo): Where the Wild Things Are invites you back to that realm where the logic didn't matter. Hell, it barely existed. It lived in dreams, desires, uneasiness, uncertainty, pain, happiness, and everything else that your mind could conjure up, but didn't know what to do with. It was a very real part of our lives that we often forget we went through. And this movie is here to remind us, not only how important that time in our lives was but that it should never be forgotten, and it'll always be there to bring us back to that place where the wild rumpus started.
(Music and clips fade out)
NC: Or maybe it's just a bunch of crazy shit, I don't know. I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to! (stands up and leaves)