While much longer than the original Sendak storybook, Where The Wild Things Are remains true to the story – though it elaborates on what we know of Max and his visit to the island of monsters. The movie's Max is an imaginative, well-meaning child who sometimes does bad things even he can't understand and feels naughty for them. In a tantrum, he tramples his indifferent sister's bed, dragging wet and dirty snow all over her room – then, realizing what he has done, retreats to his room where he cries and hides under the blankets. Who hasn't been that child?
There are endlessly beautiful visuals from beginning to end: most startling is a scene in which Max sails his boat across a vast ocean in his journey to the unknown island. Behind him is an intense, blue-black sky pin-pricked with stars that has a strange detached look as if the child and is boat are the pop-ups in a book.
The poignant moments in Where The Wild Things Are are in the relationships in the film, especially between Max and his mother. Theirs is a very realistic parent-child relationship that fluctuates – one moment, she is comforting him as he tells her how he was ignored by his older sister. In the next moment, she is shouting and punishing him in frustration. But overall, Catherine Keener brings heart to the role. In a sweet scene that shows the interaction between them, she allows him to comfort her by telling her a story that she proceeds to type and save it on her computer.
The Wild Things were perfect as Sendak's illustrations come to life. The monsters might be a little scary to young children, but I think that the movie will be enjoyable to older children and adults. Though heart-wrenching at times, overall it is heart-warming and a work of art.
(originally posted at my former blog, Positive Bleeding)