Maurice Sendak’s 1964 Prize-winning children’s book Where the Wild Things Are contains 18 illustrations and ten sentences. Only four of those sentences, divided, occupy 17 pages altogether. Director Spike Jonze’s film version of the book is over an hour-and-a-half, requiring more in-depth characterizations and thematic material.
Unlike past adaptations of children’s books, which seemed more about expanding the story than telling it (Cat in the Hat, anyone?), this film version does likewise, except that it creates a level of childhood innocence and angst that expands the scope and structure in a very sophisticated, poignant, and quite intense way. Watching the film, I couldn’t help but recall the emotional struggles and alienation of the character Elliot from E.T. Like Elliot, Max (played by Max Records) struggles with ignorance from his mother (played by Catherine Keener) and sister. Also, a father figure is missing in his life. On top of that, and unlike Elliot, Max’s angst in terms of reckless behavior and play is startling at times, even before he runs away to the land of the Wild Things.