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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
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(2009), PG [PG*] (1hr 33min)

Final Score
Analysis Date
Date Posted
Influence Density
March 11, 2010
March 13, 2010

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Christian Long Distance

(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(2009), PG [PG*] ...

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Playtone, Wild Things Productions  •  Distribution (US): Warner Home Video  •  Director(s): Spike Jonze  •  Producer(s): Bruce Berman, John B. Carls, Natalie Farrey, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Jon Jashni, Vincent Landay, Scott Mednick, Maurice Sendak, Thomas Tull, Emma Wilcockson  •  Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers  •  Book: Maurice Sendak   •  Cinematography/Camera: Lance Acord  •  Music: Carter Burwell, Karen Orzolek  •  Film Editing: James Haygood, Eric Zumbrunnen  •  Casting: Justine Baddeley, Kim Davis  •  Production Design: K.K. Barrett  •  Art Direction: Sonny Gerasimowicz, William Hawkins, Christopher Tandon, Lucinda Thomson, Jeffrey Thorp (supervising art director)  •  Viewed on Warner Home Video DVD

This analysis is sponsored by the generosity of E&HP. In keeping with the family-friendly posture of Blockbuster, they provided the DVD for this analysis. This DVD is scheduled for release on March 9, 2010

The filmmakers did a great job of telling a story that cannot be told; a great job of saying in film what cannot be said in words. And they kept the overall content truly equivalent to films in the comparative baseline database that earned PG-equivalent scores. But beware of the rather strong content in violence and in matters of arrogance/rebellion: in impudence. Indeed, these two investigation areas -- Wanton Violence/Crime and Impudence Hate -- found content to be equivalent to many R-rated films, not in extremeness or boldness of content as is typical in R-rated features but in magnitude (number of) of examples.

Young malcontent Max (Max Records) has lost all his coping skills to his hatred of his family life: an emotionally abusive sister Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) and a divorced mother (Catherine Keener) entertaining a man who is not his father. Max is hurting and lashes out in the only way he thinks he knows how -- by destructive outburst and by running away.

Taking a small sailing boat to sea Max finds himself in great trouble in a storm. Not long after the storm begins Max is shipwrecked on what is implied to be an uninhabited island. But he soon finds out it is inhabited indeed -- by monsters. Very strong monsters who are, of course, engaged in destructive outbursts. It appears Max is dreaming and is projecting his own feelings on to fantasy brutes. But there is a risk. No where in the film is it said clearly or even strongly implied Max is dreaming. Only with experiential maturity can one fully discern the story is fantasy. For example, the flesh is ripped off the arm of one of the characters who only griped and pouted that it was his favorite arm. As adults we know this is not possible. As adults we also know that fantasy monster cannot be real.

But what about the toddler or adolescent whose grasp on reality is still a little blurry? Drs. Karen Nelson, head of a major university psychology department and Larry Gilliam, a practicing counselor both agree with me that it would be unusual for even a 16 year old to be able to fully separate fantasy from reality or fully anticipate the consequences of their actions: that such skills do not typically plateau until the early 20s. Why do you suppose the legal drinking age is 21 in every state of America and that most high-risk jobs do not permit teenagers? While I do believe the average teenager can easily determine the level of this story and the characters are all fantasy I am not so sure about toddlers and preteens.

Maybe they only look like monsters because Max projects them and thus has no fear of them. Max quickly befriends them and, after a short "Eat you!" prologue, they befriend max. So much so Max becomes their king. Max boasts of great powers to help the monsters. One of Max's first campaigns as king is for the monsters to build a castle, a fortress to defend against all the nasties of the world.

Beyond that, the story is most difficult to describe due to the characters using down-to-earth, adolescent social warfare that covers many levels. Each of the monsters serve a specific and well-defined role in the plot and for the most part perform exactly as most parents have seen in any adolescent, appropriate to the level of intellect and behavior mechanics of the average adolescent. The huge lumbering goliaths of personified animals - the monsters - show love and hate, are jealous and compassionate, are hurtful and helpful, are vindictive and protective.

The personality and mannerisms of the monsters are amplified by the outstanding voice talents of high wattage performers such as Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Paul Dana, Catherine O'Hara and Forest Whitaker.

While it is slightly inappropriate to laud "monsterism" this film is fantasy enough to not likely confuse the sense of reality of most older adolescents. Younger adolescents and toddlers will not likely be able to understand much of what the film communicates anyway. However, they should be able to grasp the meaning of not only the love and friendship but the lying, bickering, lashing out and hateful mannerisms as well since such are basal in nature.

The movements and actions of the monsters were impeccable, even the eyelid and all other facial movements of the monsters were intricate and most lifelike. But it is the "natural-looking" features of the monsters that may lead young children to not fully grasp the fantasy intent of the film.

While I will not make any recommendations about viewing a film, I will ask that you inspect our findings about the content of this film before you decide on which age stratum is appropriate, if any. The MPAA may say "May not be suitable for children" but it is not their call whether the film is fit for your children, it is your call, mom/dad. We tell you the truth about the content so you might be in a better position to make an informed moral decision whether a piece of entertainment is or is not fit: we tell you the truth the trailers, the MPAA, previews, advertisers, etc. can't or won't tell. We tell you what is there -- you decide.

For those who don't like lists, following are brief descriptions of the findings made by each investigation area. Detailed listings of the findings are provided in the Findings/Scoring section (the heart of the CAP analysis model), always the best itemization of findings.

Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 35 out of 100
Violence is utilized initially as Max acts out his aggression, displaying poor coping skills. Max is a puppet of the stormy sea as he tries to run away in a sail boat. The monsters speak of eating him because they love him and having eaten past kings repeatedly. Fantasy gore comes also as the story speaks of cutting out brains and legs off and as a character's arm flesh gets ripped off its bones leaving denuded bones where the arm was (no blood). Note that just because an act is supposed to be funny does not mean it is. To some it might be, to others it won't be. As parents we probably know that a bad influence does not have to be real to influence badly. Any form or severity of violence (or crime) in and as entertainment is, by God's Word [1 Cor. 15:33] and by the "word" of several professional heath agencies, a bad influence. Experiencing it in the larger-than-life framework of cinema in a no-consequence world of a comfy chair with a box of popcorn can truly desensitize the viewer, especially the young.

Impudence/Hate (I) - 35 out of 100
Three times one of the monsters utter some form of profanity. Casual snippets of profanity are just as sinful as profanity screamed. Intent (of language) does not excuse content. God is repeatedly against any form of profanity. [Col. 3:8 for one] And to have such demonstration in a "kid's film" screams of violating Luke 17:2 as well.

Of content as invasive as the violence was the impudent and hateful content: the adolescent disrespect against a parent; an adolescent lashing out in spite of the risks; several demonstrations of a young boy acting out of control; a young boy running away with hatred yelling "I HATE you" to his mother then sailing alone out to sea with storm peril. While God warns parents not to bring their children to wrath [Eph. 6:4] children are to obey and show only respect to their parents. [Eph. 6:1 - 3, Prov. 13:24] And woe to the parent who abuses their charge! [Luke 17:2]

Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
Nothing of a sexually immoral nature was noted throughout the 93 minutes of the film.

Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 96 out of 100
Max's mom and her boyfriend have a glass of wine each as she entertains her boyfriend one evening. The American College of Physicians (ACP) have found that any exposure to alcoholic beverages in and as entertainment can and does influence the young to likewise drink alcoholic beverages. The ACP finding involved 4454 middle school aged youth (90% were under 14) and found that of the students who had no restrictions on their entertainment diet 46% had tried alcohol without their parents' knowledge. The ACP further found that of the student population who had complete restrictions on their entertainment diet only 4% had tried alcohol without their parents' knowledge. That screams boldly and clearly of the influence of alcohol in and as entertainment and of such exposure violating Luke 17:2 ... again. We may not take our responsibility to our children lightly, folks.

Note that the researchers selected R-rated films in their study because they assumed that R-rated films resent more alcohol in and as entertainment. However! The focus is that the influence of alcohol in and as entertainment regardless of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) classification is now proven: that the focus is the emboldening influence of adolescent exposure to drinking (and smoking) in and as entertainment regardless of the MPAA classification is undeniable.

While it is not a sin to drink, it is a sin to drink in excess [Eph. 5:18] AND to influence the young to drink. The issue is do not abuse the body by intoxicating it [1 Cor. 6:19].

Further, while the ACP feels it is exposure to alcohol in and as entertainment which causes youth to violate law and rule with alcohol, I find the influence is much deeper and is more the attitude associated with the display of drinking (and any other aberrant behaviors) in films, especially the portrayal of underage drinking in films. Usually such display is with the teen-desirable [Prov. 22:15] arrogant disregard for rule and law and the "I don't care what you do to me" rebellion. More on the influence of attitudes in entertainment and of the common threads in most entertainment: freedom from authority, freedom from accountability and freedom from consequences; the stealing of childhood from children is discussed in ATTITUDE: In Perspective -- Investigation Area Scoring and Trend in CAP Entertainment Industry Investigations.

Offense to God (O) - 71 out of 100
God's name in spoken in vain four times and each before a child. Though each time His name was spoken in vain it was without the four letter expletive. [Deut. 5:11]

Murder/Suicide (M) - 100 out of 100
There were no murders or suicides noted at all.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice [kakia: ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, depravity, evil, trouble, not ashamed to break laws, etc.], and filthy language [aischrologia: foul speaking, low and obscene speech] from your lips.
  • Eph. 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. [Note that bringing your children to wrath is not simple anger such as not letting your three year old pound on the TV screen or not letting your teenager to go out on a date during a tornado warning. See our Spare the Rod -- Spoil the Child publication for more information.]
  • Eph. 6:1 - 3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise. That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
  • Prov. 13:24 He that spareth [withholds even when needed] his rod hateth his son [he that does not discipline his child fairly is showing disregard of him]: but he that loveth him chasteneth [corrects, disciplines fairly] him betimes [early, timely]. [Use of a "rod" here speaks to discipline, NOT a literal beating with a pole or stick. The "rod" can be anything that corrects disobedience, rebellion and arrogance. The "rod" can even be a kind word as long as it builds righteous obedience.
  • 1 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • Prov. 22:15 Foolishness [ivveleth: folly, senselessness, thoughtlessness, recklessness] is bound in the heart of a child]; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. ["Foolishness" (ivveleth) is from the same as eviyl {ev-eel'}, meaning of one who despises wisdom; of one who mocks when guilty, is quarrelsome, is licentious. Note that the "rod" (of correction) does not have to be punishment and must never be physically harmful. A simple "good job" when warranted can serve as the "rod" as well. If you would like to know more, please visit our Spare the Rod ... Spoil the Child: A Parental Perspective article at . It is rather long though.]
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. [Vain is shav {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity, such as an expletive. With or without the four letter expletive, the use of God's name in any way other than respect, reverence or responsible discussion is in vain. That includes the popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it AND the misuse of Jesus' name or title. So, trying to excuse such expressions with "I was talking TO God/Jesus when I said that" or It's just words" or "I was acting" will not work with Him.]

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Jer. 37:9 This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, 'The Babylonians [the destroyers from within] will surely leave us.' They will not!
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil [kakov: of a bad nature, not such as it ought to be] communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among us], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. [Offend: skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} - scandalize; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.]
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The objective heart of the CAP Analysis Model, independent of and insulated from the Summary / Commentary section.)

    Where the Wild Things Are (2009) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 35 out of 100
  • young boy acting out aggression twice, once with destruction of property
  • teaching doom to an adolescent class
  • peril at sea with shipwreck and near drowning of young boy and stranded
  • threat to be eaten by monsters, repeatedly
  • reckless endangerment of a child
  • speaking of fantasy gore such as cutting out brains and legs off
  • "Yeah, you can eat me. I love you"
  • two characters enjoying pain (2 owls enjoying having rocks chucked at them)
  • long sequence of slapstick violence (dirt clod fight) that led to fighting amongst friends
  • character ripping off the arm of another character
  • pursuit of young boy to do harm
  • fantasy gore (denuded bones of character arm)
  • claim of having eaten kings of the past
  • "I'll eat you up. I love you"
  • boy alone at sea

    Impudence/Hate (I) - 35 out of 100
  • 3 uses of profanity
  • young boy tormenting dog
  • emotional abuse by older sister
  • four teens meeting the sister who then left Max alone at home
  • 2 teen boys bullying young boy
  • scenes of a young boy out of control, speaking hatefully to mother, biting her at her restraint of him
  • young boy running away with hatred, disrespect, yelling and "I HATE you" to mother, sailing to sea alone, getting caught in a storm endangering his life
  • series of lies, repeatedly
  • excluding others due to jealousy
  • bickering, often

    Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 96 out of 100
  • one scene of drinking wine by two adults

    Offense to God (O) - 71 out of 100
  • four uses of God's name in vain, before a child but each without the four letter expletive

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 100 out of 100
  • none noted

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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