A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Where the Wild Things Are" reflects so much of a plucky little kid: the flirting up of anger at a parent, the defiant escape into fantasy, the tough talk in a tight situation, the exuberance and then the fundamental need to return home and be loved and reassured. All of these stages are explored in Maurice Sendak's famous 1963 children's book, which contains only nine sentences. Ah, but what sentences they are when given resonance by his drawings.
Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers have met the challenge of this little masterpiece head on, by including both a real little boy and the imaginary Wild Things in the same film. It would simply not have done to alter or shrink the monstrous Things, and with an $80 million budget, Jonze has been able to make a movie where any reader of the book should be able to recognize all of the Things in sight.
The creatures in the film are voiced by actors, and given a great deal more to say, of course, than in the book. The Things are a considerable technical achievement, combining as they do muppetry and CGI. I don't find them particularly lovely, nor should I; they're not fuzzy toys but characters in a dream that slides in and out of nightmares.
Max Records, of "The Brothers Bloom," plays the difficult role of Max, the boy who gets into a stubborn argument with his mom (Catherine Keener) and flees to his room and then to his imagination. In the book his room transforms itself into a jungle, but the film has him sailing a stormy sea in a little boat that looks like a bathtub toy. It arrives at an island which the Wild Things inhabit in grouchy discontent, and Max finds himself moved to bring the discord under control. Why these creatures, who tower over him, should even consider accepting his leadership is a no-brainer: This is Max's dream.