The key to appreciating Spike Jonze’s imperfectly perfect screen adaptation of the classic bedtime story is in this director’s statement: “I didn’t set out to make a children’s movie; I set out to make a movie about childhood.”
What Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers have wrought in adapting Maurice Sendak’s 1963 picture book perennial is something so primal, and so in touch with the rough “id” of youthful fantasy, it would be easy to dismiss as a simple kid’s story.
That’s true, even though it’s about a kid: boisterous nine-year-old Max, who is resisting maturity. He just wants to have a “wild rumpus” with his strange new woodland pals, who have crowned him king of their dusty jungle. Reality can wait, if only for a moment.
Where the Wild Things Are uses puppets instead of computers (although CGI rendering was needed for facial expressions), a sailboat instead of a rocket ship and dirt clods instead of guns or bombs. The giant forest creatures voiced by James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker and Paul Dano are so handmade and primal, they come as a shock to the system.
Extra include four “Webisodes” of background material; the Blu-ray version has eight Webisodes, plus the short film Higglety Pigglety Pop!, featuring the voices of Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker.