Like so many other people of my generation, Maurice Sendak’s book was a childhood favorite, and I still have my original, well-worn copy of the book. Many early fans of the book now have kids of their own, and when this film was announced I imagined a lot of young parents forcing their kids to watch something they enjoyed themselves when they were kids, much like the 20th anniversary re-release of E.T. several years ago.
Warner Brothers were reportedly worried that the film would be too scary for kids. It is a bit scary for kids, but not because of the way the Wild Things look–which is consistently stunning–but they way they speak. Critics have noted that the creatures seem like rejects from a Woody Allen script, fretting over romantic relationships and neurotically predicting the extinction of the sun, and this is what makes this a film more for parents then for kids. Personally, I didn’t care for the voice over work at all, as it made the Wild Things sound like LA celebs bitching at each other in an MTV reality show. The special effects go beyond convincing to arrive at moving. The soundtrack by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is appropriately playful and deserving of its last minute Oscar nomination. But at times, the seemingly endless shots taken at the “magic hour”, combined with the whimsical soundtrack made me think I was watching a commercial for a Toyota Prius or something. In the end, Max grows up, having learned it is not too easy to be the king of anything, and here the story returns to its Sendak orgins.