Where the Wild Things Are director/co-writer Spike Jonze has said his film is not a childrens’ movie but a movie about childhood. It’s a distinction that sums up what’s wonderful about this adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic book. This isn’t a crowd-pleaser; it’s an art film. But it should connect with anybody who knows a child, or remembers the restless emotional energy that comes with being a child.
Sendak’s book is famously brief, made up of about a dozen pages some of which have no words. In adapting the work, Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers smartly chose not to expand too much on the plot (which boils down to: a boy named Max gets in trouble, is sent to his room, imagines a fantastic journey to an island of scary-friendly “wild things,” then returns to the comforts of home). They have added a big sister who abandons Max for a group of her friends and they have interpreted the lack of a father in the book as a sign that Max’s parents are divorced.