I was there on opening day, and I wanted to hate the movie. I wanted to leave the theater cursing the director. How dare someone ruin the best picture book ever with Muppets and actors. I entered the theater with a mixture of bad attitude and anxious anticipation. But I left eagerly awaiting its release on DVD. I absolutely loved it.
My wife wasn't interested in seeing WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, and my son was too afraid, so I went alone. Good thing I did, because he would have been scared, and we would have left early. Then he would have slept in bed with my wife and I for weeks following.
It was a totally fun experience. I especially enjoyed comparing the differences between the movie and the book, though I think they did a good job of keeping to the basic premise of the story — kid misbehaves, makes his mother angry, takes a trip to a far-off island, becomes king of the Wild Things.
In the book, Max is sent to his room, which then transforms into a jungle. But in the movie, he runs off into the night, comes upon a boat, and sails off toward the island. Little details, like the explosive mishap with his mother — tipsy from a glass of wine, and kissy-kissy with a boyfriend, made the story-line more true to contemporary life.
I loved the monsters. Visually, they were right on target. They perfectly matched the cross-hatched characters from the book, and their adult personalities added icing to the cake. They reminded me of people I know, which suggests I know quite a few crazy folk. My favorite part of the movie was when Carol shared with Max his hand-made model of the island. It represented his dream of a perfect, happy, kingdom, which he didn't believe could ever happen. But Max convinced Carol to believe, and all the Wild Things came together to build the fort, based upon the model. Nice job of filling in details left to the imagination in the book.
There were some uncomfortable moments, too. Quite a few actually. The scenes with the owls, Bob and Terry, who were abruptly, and brutally, stoned to the ground in mid-flight by KW, the Hippy-ish Wild Thing, and love interest to Carol. My stomach turned when the birds were stoned, and I never quite figured out if they were truly friends of the Wild Things, or captives.
I thought the dirt fight was distasteful, too. It reminded me of a real-life brick fight I had as a child, which, just like Alexander, the littlest (and sweetest) of the Wild Things, left me bloodied with a gash in my skull. The scene was cruel, and my son would not have liked it. And the scene with Douglas' wing getting ripped off — ack! They could have left that scene out.
I was afraid the movie would render the book irrelevant to future generations of kids. What kid would want to read the book, in it's simplicity, after seeing the movie? But no worries, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is not a movie for kids. So give the kiddos the book, leave them at home, and go enjoy the movie without them.