Rock guitar virtuoso Steve Vai performs live at the State Theatre, Minneapolis in 2007.
Through his handcrafted ode to the trials of childhood, Spike Jonze puts his own unique imprint on Maurice Sendak's enduring classic. In the prologue, 9-year-old Max (Max Records) stomps around the house, feeling neglected. When his mom (Catherine Keener) sends him to bed without supper, Max runs away (something he doesn't do in the book). He finds a boat and sails to a distant land where fuzzy monsters are raising a rumpus in the forest. Since his wolf suit allows him to fit right in, he joins the fray, catching the eye of Carol (James Gandolfini), who notes, approvingly, "I like the way you destroy stuff. There's a spark to your work that can't be taught." With that, they pronounce the diminutive creature king, hoping he can bring cohesion to their fractured family. After Max comes across Carol's scale-model town, he decides they should build a real one, but the project stalls as Alexander (Paul Dano) and Douglas (Chris Cooper) mope, Judith (Catherine O'Hara) browbeats Ira (Forest Whitaker), and Carol pines for K.W. (Lauren Ambrose), who prefers the company of owls Bob and Terry. Max realises he has to make a choice: stay with the wild things or return home, where he has to keep his aggressive impulses in check.
For readers of Sendak's slim tome, his decision won't come as a surprise, but Jonze ends the story on a lovely grace note. Until that time, the squabbling is a bit much--these monsters never stop talking--but Jonze, cowriter Dave Eggers, the Jim Henson Company, and singer/songwriter Karen O. have gone all-out to re-create the inner world of a child with as much empathy as was mustered for the inner adult world of Jonze's Being John Malkovich. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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