This film is for anyone who still has memories of their childhood, and it is a film that will bring those memories crashing back to the surface. This is not strictly a film for kids, which is why many parents were disappointed when they took their children to see it. As I am only 16 myself this film was highly poignant, bringing home to me the fact that the dull world of adulthood beckons and that there's no turning back to the past. To add to this I could relate very much to Max, his home life and his wild imagination so I left the cinema feeling pretty emotional!
People have said that the film is plotless and that nothing happens, but that isn't stricly true. Max runs away from home and sails to the island of the Wild Things who, fearing his "magic powers", make him their king. They feel it is up to Max to keep the sadness away, to make the island a better place, but things don't necessarily work out for the best. The film itself is beautifully done, with golden-brown cinematography that evokes the atmosphere of a sunny autumn day just before winter arrives. Jonze has a great eye for art direction: for example the the Wild Things' homes are constructed from sticks in an organic, Henry Moore-esque fashion. It's a visual look which I definitely haven't seen in any other film. You would think that the source material by Maurice Sendak, being only 10 sentences long, is not nearly enough to make for a 100 minute film but writers Jonze and Dave Eggers have done an excellent job in fleshing out a story and the characters. The absence of a father in the original story here means a divorce, and all 7 of the Wild Things represent a different aspect of Max's personality.
The voice cast is superb and gives the film life and humour (I was surprised to learn that James Gandolfini of The Sopranos voices Carol, the Wild Thing who is concentrated on most and who is shown on the DVD cover). The music by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is highly unusual, a mixture of folk acoustic and a group of children shrieking and barking during the wild rumpus scene.
What too makes this such an unorthodox "family film" is the darker side that Jonze has added which I won't reveal here in case you haven't seen it yet, and although the film ends on a (sort of) happy note it still leaves the viewer feeling a bit down (in my case anyway). But this actually ends up being one of the film's strong points -- it is more emotionally engaging that way. It does have a few morals in it though they aren't as in-your-face as Disney; that being wild like Max doesn't always have the desired consequences. But most of all it does make you want to wear a wolf suit and go rampaging through the forest, howling with your own Wild Things and forgetting the pressures of the everyday world, if only for a short while.