Where The Wild Things Are Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short Version: Where the Wild Things Are is a wonderful movie more suited to grown-ups who want to remember their childhood than for the kids who are still there.

where the wild things are review Where The Wild Things Are Review
Screen Rant reviews Where the Wild Things Are

Just so you know, I don’t have fond memories of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. Neither for myself as a child nor for reading it to my daughter when she was younger (the book I remember is The Wheels on the Bus). So I didn’t have any bubble to burst going into the movie.

I don’t know how this will go over with fans of the book… Spike Jonze had to flesh out a book whose entire text maybe amounted to one paragraph into a 100 minute movie – so he had to fill in a LOT of story that isn’t in the book.

The film opens pretty close to the original story, with Max (played wonderfully by Max Records) running through the house crazy and screaming, chasing the poor family dog. Max is an only child with no father who doesn’t seem to have friends – and he’s a bit of a wild child.

Max really wants attention, but is hard pressed to get as much as he wants from his loving, working mom who is also trying to get a relationship going of her own. One evening Max crosses the line in behavior and the result is (unlike the book) his running away. He finds his way to a nearby park with a shoreline, finds a small boat and sails away. After a rough journey he comes upon an island, and makes his way to a campfire where there are a bunch of large, odd creatures trying to convince one of their own not to demolish their huts.

Once he reveals himself to them he has to spin a yarn about being a king of the Vikings with magical powers in order to avoid being eaten. Max is supported by the apparant leader of the group, Carol (a male character, voice by James Gandolfini). It seems that Carol is perturbed by the recent departure of KW, who seems to be as close to a girlfriend as these monster-creatures get. Carol looks to Max to bring some purpose and happiness to the group, which has its share of dysfunctional characters.

For a while things go well, but eventually conflicts and doubts arise – and the complexity of the relationships and emotions will be a surprise to people going in expecting a fairly simple adaptation of a beloved children’s story.

Where the Wild Things Are put a grin on my face from the very first frame, with the Warner Bros. logo surrounded by hand drawn scribbles. Max Records is simply wonderful in the film and just draws you in with every subtle facial expression. And then we have the muppet with CGI face characters voiced by the likes of James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O’Hara and the rest – subtle, touching performances all around by big, furry creatures. At the end of the film I asked myself how big HR Puf’n’Stuff looking creatures could bring a tear to my eye.

The film is a look at the world through the eyes of a nine year old more effective than I’ve seen in a while, if ever. Director Spike Jonze does a fantastic job of it, and combined with the beautiful music and breathtaking cinematography if you let yourself go it should really transport you to another place. I actually believe that the older you are, the more you will appreciate this film.

So if that’s the case, what about children?

Well honestly I don’t know how this will go over with kids – there are a couple of scenes that the really young ones (at the age that they’ll actually enjoy the book right now) will probably find a bit frightening (the movie is rated PG). Kids a bit older than that (Max’s age) may not exactly be transported by the film because, well, they’re already there – and the relative complexities of the relationships will probably bore them. So – I’m very curious how this will go over with the general public. Critics seem to be split on this so I imagine the audience will be the same. I knocked off half a star because this should have been a film that appeals to all ages (think Pixar) but I don’t think it really works for kids.

Where the Wild Things Are is destined to be a film classic, and I encourage you to go see it for yourself.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. See, again I don’t get it. It’s nice that at least your review is positive instead of being negative because it might not appeal to children. But the fact that you knock a point off because it *might* not appeal to a group that you are not a part of and have no right to speak for is worrisome.

  2. @Matt

    LOL, a group I “have no right to speak for”? Um, what? I was at a screening with the public – the film seemed to bore kids, and I think I’m a decent judge of what might appeal to kids and what might not (I do have a daughter). I mean for crying out loud, I gave it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and you’re giving me grief because of a half star? Thank God I didn’t go lower than that I guess…

    Have you SEEN the movie yourself yet?



  3. definitely going to watch it :D, i was a huge fan of the book when i was a kid (used to read it literally everyday at school)
    just hope its as good as you say it is :-)

  4. Excellent. Loved the book and was hoping this movie would do well, even if it is more suited for older audiences. Nice review Vic

  5. Oh yeah,
    This one has my name on it!
    Thanks Vic!

  6. This book scared me as a child. Great memories though and I hope the film is less frightening!

  7. Thanks Vic!!..Looking forward to this film!!

  8. Taking my eight year old daughter tomorrow. I’ll let you know how she liked it. BTW she is really looking forward to it, as am I.

  9. Nice review Vic,
    I too was wondering what could Spike Jonze possibly to do have a 10 line story be turned into an almost 2 hour film?
    Good review, even if it fails, at least it is something different and arftul.

  10. I’m taking my ten-year-old little brother to go see it today. Very interested in what he will think as he says he does want to see it (and so do I).

  11. @Josh & INK

    Please do let me know what they (and you) thought of it!


  12. So we have resorted to running experiments? ;)

    I’ll be seeing this one with an open mind, and might even take a younger cousin depending on what their young ones think of it!

    Thanks for another honest review!

  13. Thank you for the honest review, my kids are looking forward to the movie so we’ll see how it goes. I just ordered the book for them from amazon.com for $9.35. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061656860?ie=UTF8&tag=stsolutions00-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0061656860

  14. I’m about to leave right now to go see it!! I’m so excited. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the best this year

  15. I am moving all day today and tomorrow, I am mad I can’t see it til Sunday! I can’t wait though. Glad you gave it great review, you guys really seem to get it right on reviews.

  16. Although this is being heavily marketed as a kid/family movie, I would seriously caution parents of children under 10 (and probably under 13) to avoid this movie or at least be prepared to deal with the issues it raises. The serious adult themes are confusing and inappropriate for little ones. As an adult I found the movie to be quite depressing and a big departure from a beloved children’s classic. Two words: highly disappointed to say the least.

    We wrote a full review of the film from a parents’perspective right here: http://www.fivehens.com/where-the-wild-things-are-movie-review/

  17. I really loved this movie and I almost cried at the end of it.

  18. I LOVED this movie!! Visually stunning and you could feel the filmakers love for the material with each and every scene. Jonze took the classic book and made a film appropriate for todays audiences. I found it to be very touching and was taken back to what it TRULY felt like to be a young kid again!! I felt that while the themes were mature I felt that kids 8 and older would find it engaging enough. I am glad that Jonze and company didn’t try to dumb any of the themes down and that they respected the fact that kids aern’t stupid and can understand more mature messages that they were trying to impart.
    I would highly reccommend this film!! I may go see it again and trust me I don’t get out all that often!!

  19. I just saw this movie today,and I liked it.It was very heavy on symbolism,and I wish that the parents that brought their little kids to see this would’ve known that,because this definitely is not a movie for little children.

    There were just a few too many kids in the theater talking and carrying on for my liking.Those parents should’ve taken them to see something more appropriate,like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meat Balls,that way the movie would have been more enjoyable,and those talkative kids would’ve enjoyed that movie more.

  20. Great movie…i do give it a 5/5. Being 17 i don’t know how a kid would react but i thought it was amazing

  21. @ Longshanks

    Uhhh … it’s a kids movie, you should have expected kids to be there. If you wanted to see it without little kids go to the “after 9:00 showing.”


    Saw it today with the wife and daughter. I liked it a lot. Probably not one I’ll buy, but it was enjoyable. My daughter also liked it a lot. She thought it was funny. I thought they did an excellent job conveying emotion through the creatures.

  22. @ Vic

    I disagree,I really don’t think it was a kids movie.The themes presented are just to veiled and a bit much for a 5 year old to grasp.Maybe 10 years old and older would “get” it(with a bit of deciphering from their parents),but I don’t see kids younger than that(all the kids I saw in the theater were definitely younger than that) really getting what’s actually going on in this movie other than a kid running around an island with a bunch of talking monsters.There’s obviously way more than that going on here.

    I know that there were a few scenes that elicited a seemingly uncomfortable silence from the younger crowd.I could tell that the dirt clod fight didn’t go over too well and neither did the scene where KW helped Max hide from Carol(don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet).Just because it was based on a children’s book doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie is meant for kids as well(when I say kids,I’m talking about those under the age of 12).

  23. Well I guess the reviewer was getting popcorn or something he said Mas was a Only child.Max had a older sister in the movie, his anger over losing her to her new teenage friends is one of the major themes of the movie.The reviewer was correct about it not being for small children but to miss such a huge part of the whole theme of the movie makes me doubt he even watched it.

  24. I have 0 interest in this film however I’m not surprised its a tad hardcore.
    I remember reading news that WB re-edited the first cut as it was too dark for a family film. Guess there’s only so much they can do to alter a directors vision…

    I remember reading this book as a kid. I liked the artwork and it was cool how the kids dreamworld changed his bedroom at night. But I knew they would take it down the Golden Compass path,,,

  25. @Longshanks

    I agree that it wasn’t a kids movie but they marketed it for kids, therefore kids were going to be there. I was actually a little nervous in parts of the film worried what my daughters reaction to some of the content. She got scared once, but overall she was OK and liked it.

    BTW sorry for the last post, after re-reading it today it sounded kinda “jerkish” didn’t mean for that to be the case.

  26. Sorry Vic,I was actually addressing INK in my last post.

    @ INK

    No worries

  27. Wow, this movie creeped me out more than I thought it would. And im 19

  28. I’m sorry, but I saw this movie and thought it was terrible.

    Max is a spoiled brat. No real plot to hold your interest for the freaking hour or more that they show you scenes of building a fort, throwing dirt, knocking down trees and having group hugs. I’m sorry but I can only take that for so long before I start thinking, “okay…is this story going to go anywhere? anything more interesting than this?” Oh, and the moody, passive aggressive bipolar monsters were really aggravating. I understand that the director was trying to go for a whole psychological thing that was a reflection of Max’s personality….but if he was going to do that, i think he should have shown more direct relationships to it in Max’s real life instead of just having it be as it is with the viewer going, man, wtf are these monsters so bitchy for?

    The movie was a great idea with a lot of potential. I just think the delivery of that idea made it very difficult and tedious to watch…..and no, I don’t consider myself someone with a particularly low attention span. It was just seriously cumbersome to endure. The book is 100 times better. Of course.

  29. OK I usually agree with screen rant on their takes of movies but this one was terrible. Aside from having no plot (Most of the movie I was trying to figure out where everything was going only to get to the end and realize it was nowhere) and being extremely slow, all this movie gave was so much ridiculous symbolism that it destroyed itself. I'm sure it gained so much praise and acclaim because it was so artsy, visually stunning, and symbolic however it was missing one thing that all movies should in order to gain any praise…entertaining.