Spike Jonze, who imaginatively gave us ADAPTATION and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, has paid an amazingly creative and emotional version of Maurice Sendak's classic tale WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. How to expand a short, practically perfect children's book with indelibly unique illustrations and very few words? Jonze has expanded the story particularly at the start of the film. Max's wildness is established through a screaming dog chase caught by hand-held camera. Later Max attacks his older sister's boy friends with snow balls. In turn, they destroy his precious snow fort. Later in another rage he bites his single mother. It's obvious this child is out of control, or is he? Jonze has the uncanny knack of remembering what a boy's childhood is often like, particularly if his parents are recently divorced.
Max runs into the night all the way to a shore where he takes a small sailboat into unknown stormy seas and eventually finds the island of the Wild Things. The huge, furry creatures make Max their king. And the wild rumpus begins. Fun and free and just a bit violent, the games quickly develop into fights, jealousies, and petty bickering. The action and dialogue subtly matches Max's conflicts in real life, as do the characters and their voices. Eventually Max must leave the island and confront those contests at home.
Jonze' s directorial