The long-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's book oozes hipness: writer/director Spike Jonze, cowriter Dave Eggers, a soundtrack co-composed by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O, a commendable name cast led by child actor Max Records, and of course the beloved source material. And the film is inarguably incredible to look at. Costumes, locations, production design, cinematography, puppetry, and animation are all seamlessly integrated to produce one unique and beautiful vision.
Yet Where the Wild Things Are is one of those movies that I deeply admire without actually having enjoyed. Those expecting great fun may be disappointed: Jonze and Eggers take Sendak's material and use it to explore the messier side of children's relationships - for the Wild Things, despite their hippie-commune feel, are basically children. The filmmakers have done something extraordinary in capturing the complex, remarkably political friendships between kids. Watching this film brought back long-dormant memories from my youth: not pleasant memories, but honest memories about the difficulties in dealing with so many other new, developing personalities.
Of course the Wild Things in this film may also serve as a metaphor for the often childish ways adults treat each other (after all, these grown-up creatures speak with the mature voices of James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Cooper, and the like). But in the end, while there is some great emotional truth here, and while I certainly feel that Jonze and company have succeeded in making exactly the movie they set out to make, the story isn't very compelling and there is little real joy to be had amongst these mopey, bickering monsters, and the lonely child whose feelings these imaginary beings represent. I'm glad I saw it, and there are people out there who will consider this a great film, but personally I found it a little tedious.