Release Date (UK) – 11 December 2009
Certificate (UK) – PG
Country – USA
Director – Spike Jonze
Runtime – 101 mins
Starring – Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo
The long awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s much loved childrens classic uses a combination of puppetry and CGI and live action to re-enact his tale of young boy Max (played brilliantly by a Max Records) who turns to a fantasy world when he is banished to his room for misbehaving. Although the child protagonist and fantasy world do have a clear child appeal, the subtle emotional subtext of the painfulness of growing up in Where the Wild things mean its target audience is more likely to be adults, especially those who read the book as young children.
Before we become immersed in Max’s imaginary world we see him struggling to cope in the real world as his mother (Catherine Keener) has a new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) and no longer has time to play along with Max’s games. This first section of the film depicts the world from the child’s perspective wonderfully and we feel for the lonely Max as his sister is also too old to play with him, although his angry tantrums and outbursts do feel just slightly little over the top.
When we arrive in the land of the wild things there is very little plot and not much really happens as the films seems to slow down but then Sendak’s book was very short itself so Jonze didn’t have that much to work with. Max becomes the king and builds a fort but there is no real direction to his adventures in this fantasy land, although there are vague hints at the a subtext of responsibility and maturity. Jonze and novelist Dave Eggers who helped with the adaptation have made a few additions that don’t work that well like the talking owls but the creatures do look exactly as in the book and they are both scary and gentle at the same time as in the book.
While the lack of any real plot may disappoint some viewers nevertheless this is still an enjoyable film that is a faithful adaptation that will please readers and non readers of the much loved original book.