Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's story has been remade into many things including a short animated feature and even an opera. Now director Spike Jones has transformed in to a live action movie. How can a book with only 338 words be adapted into an hour and a half movie? The writers have to stray from the original story, and even though the plot strays it's not unfaithful to Sendak's version. Jones does an excellent job of evoking the same tone and emotions that the book expresses.
Max is an over-observant hot headed little boy, who has no friends of his own. He builds forts in the snowbanks, dresses in a fox costume, and creates little fables that his mother (Catherine Keener) writes down. Max can get a little rowdy at times, after his sister ditches him he attacks her bedroom strewing it with snow. But when his mother comes home he confesses to his wrong doing, making him a sympathetic character and not just totally obnoxious.
One day his mother brings home a date, this angers Max, thinking she is trying to replace his dead father. He throws a fit and runs away. He runs down the street, cutting through yards, all the way to the shore where he finds a small sailboat and sets adrift into the night. The next morning he's off shore of an island where monstrous sounds come. This is the island of the wild things. Max sees these beastly creatures and tricks them into making them their king because it was either that or be eaten.
The creatures are made up of a star studded cast including James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, and Academy Award winners Chris Cooper and Forest Whitaker. Each of the monsters represent a feeling that Max has experienced earlier in the film, anger, jealousy, depression, disregard, low self esteem, and plenty more. Some of these emotions might be too complex for younger children to grasp, but this is a daring film that thinks it's audience members are smart enough to relate to the attitudes up on the screen.
This is a slightly dark family film, with it's fair share of dramatic moments mixed in with the comedy. And with movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Monsters vs. Aliens, which have no overall aesthetic values, Where the Wild Things Are is a thought provoking treat for the whole family that will stick in your minds for well after the closing credits. 4 stars.
Pick up a copy of Searcy Living for a list of movies we're watching!