As many parents will know, Where The Wild Things Are is a classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak, made up of little more than 300 words, that tells the story of naughty boy Max, who after his mother calls him a ‘wild thing’ and sends him to his room, goes to a strange land in his imagination filled with scary wild animals who make him king of all things, before Max tires of it all and travels home in time for tea. Beautifully illustrated, with big furry creatures that look like rabid teddy bears, it’s a marvellous book that toddlers have loved since it was first published in 1963.
The challenge of adapting a very short, dark, and beloved children’s book into a live action movie fell to writer/director Spike Jonze (better known for inventive ‘grown up’ movies like Being John Malkovich) and writer Dave Eggers (bestselling author of A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius) and what they have delivered is a visually stunning piece of cinema – but one that will scare the hell out of little ones fond of the book as their bedtime story. Instead, their movie is for adults and older kids (if they’re not terrified, the under 9s will probably just find it too strange) who will appreciate both the emotions that Max feels on his journey and the wonderful landscapes it all plays out against.
Of course, a book that only has a few sentences had to be fleshed out for the screen, and here Max (Records) gains a sister, his mum is divorced, and it is when Max has run away from home (rather than being sent to his room) that he discovers a sailboat that takes him to the strange land where those wild things are. And the Wild Things (giant puppets voiced by a well known cast) themselves are given adolescent personalities and problems, too – there’s Carol (James Gandolfini), who tears down his home as soon as he has built it; loner KW (Lauren Ambrose) and know-it-all Judith (Catherine O’Hara) – while the plot itself is expanded to have them question Max’s abilities as their new king.
Slow, and sometimes terribly sad, this features a terrific performance from Records as the petulant little boy, and lovely vocal ones from a cast that also includes Dano and Forest Whitaker. Not one for kids, perhaps, but one that does appeal to the confused, scared and angry kid in all of us.
Is Where The Wild Things Are suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This really isn’t for younger children (under 10) as the Wild Things are scary to look at and often act in disturbing ways.
Younger children will be upset and scared when Max runs away
The scene in which one monster tries to eat Max is frightening.
Children will find scenes in which the wild things get angry quite scary.