Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Max Records, James Gandolfini
Personally, I say the question of whether this is a children's movie is up in the air. I highly enjoyed it, but my friend secret codename Herb downright disliked it. Then again, she did confess that the monsters in the movie reminded her of her childhood nightmares. That I can understand.
Max is a disobedient little boy who likes to play outside and have adventures. We see him interact with his older sister and his mother. This establishes the theme that Max feels like the world is against him. Although he can make his mother laugh while she works, he does tend to be a little pain in the butt. One night, he runs away to an island inhabited by giant monsters. They agree to make Max king because Max tells them he was made king of the vikings. From there, Max declares that they build a giant fort where they can sleep in a giant pile like their first night. The story continues from there.
The movie itself does not seem to feature any main or central conflict. But the viewer can draw a few parallels between Max and the monster Carol. While at home, Max feels like the world is against him. I'm sure we've all felt like this before as a child. Adults think their way is the best way and don't believe children have minds of their own. Movies like this help bring to the front that children in fact are capable of thinking for themselves even if it is flawed. While no one agrees to go along with what Max has to say, he becomes a troublemaker.
On the island, Carol is the character everyone else isolates in a similar way. No one very much likes his ideas even if Carol thinks his ideas are the best. This is probably what first draws Max to Carol. As the story continues, and Max becomes king, Max discovers what it's like to be the one with the ideas and to be listened to. He likes it. Even though Max sometimes goes along with Carol,he does not always like Carol's ideas. This is apparent when KW brings her friends Bob and Terri into the fort and their brains are not eaten automatically. Although Max wanted the new friends to enter, Carol did not.
Although the monsters may not appear child-friendly to my friend, the imagination displayed throughout the movie was definitely that of a child. The lack of technology in the kid's life is apparent in the beginning of the movie, and I attribute this to his active imagination. (There is a theme there better left for another post.) The writer's did a very good job writing about a boy with a mind of creation, and they did a good job tying a lot of the events in his life together in the arc of the movie.
The main thing that caught my attention, however, was the photography. Whoever had command of the camera knew exactly how to poetically capture an image. It was kind of breathtaking to watch and kept a person inspired throughout the movie. Perhaps it's these images that reminded the viewer that the movie is about imagination. The cinematography is very inspiring.
However, the movie fails to present a central conflict to be resolved throughout the movie. Yes, there is conflict with Max's behavior at home and Carol's anger at the end of the movie, but it's not really resolved. We do not see Max learning a lesson while away, we just see him calm down enough to realize that maybe he didn't behave his best. And we do see Carol be upset for getting angry at Max too.
To go along with this, the characters don't really have central goals. While on the island, Max just wants to have fun and be the king for the monsters. Yes, they build a fort, the story continues after the fort is finished. It's just a background activity so the characters have something to do while they have fun.
Overall, I give this movie a B+. After a while, it did seem to get a bit long. And the lack of set goals and conflicts highlight the length. It detracts from what really made this movie enjoyable: good acting on Max's part and the photography. The active imagination was very endearing too.
This movie is recommended for everyone aged seven and up. Some of the images might be scary, and a character does get his arm ripped off at one point. But overall, very family friendly, and enjoyable to watch.