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Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, Catherine O'Hara ... see more see more... , Forest Whitaker , Michael Berry Jr. , Chris Cooper , Lauren Ambrose , Pepita Emmerichs , Max Pfeifer , Steve Mouzakis , Mark Ruffalo , Joshua Jay Santiago , Ryan Corr , Vincent Crowley , Sonny Gerasimowicz , Nick Farnell , Sam Longley , Angus Sampson , Mark McCracken , John Leary , Alice Parkinson , Garon Michael , Michelle Williams , Tom Noonan

Visionary director Spike Jonze brings Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book to the big screen with the help of hipster icon Dave Eggers, who teamed with Jonze to pen the adapted screenplay. A mixtu... read more read of real actors, computer animation, and live puppeteering, Where the Wild Things Are follows the adventures of a young boy named Max (Max Records) as he enters the world of the Wild Things, a race of strange and enormous creatures who gradually turn the young boy into their king. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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57% liked it

297,072 ratings


72% liked it

254 critics

DVD Release Date: March 2, 2010

Stats: 19,037 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (19,037)

  • May 21, 2014
    There's always a certain amount of trepidation when a filmmaker gets their hands on a book that you loved as a child. Even if we overlook the general risk that the whole project may become a cynical Hollywood cash-grab, the director's vision may be so different to your childhood ... read moreimaginings that it ends up tarnishing the original experience, perhaps permanently.

    We find ourselves in precisely this predicament with Where The Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak's 1963 book has become a classic in children's literature, beloved for generations and in various stages of development hell since the early-1980s. Spike Jonze is a director with a glowing reputation, but a seven-year gap between features isn't immediately reassuring. Fortunately, the results are very good, and while the film is by no means perfect, it remains a touching and compelling work.

    There has been a fair amount of debate as to whether Where The Wild Things Are can be called a children's film. Certainly its marketing didn't position it as such: its trailers played more on the indie cred of Jonze, highlighting the soundtrack work by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and using a re-recorded version of Arcade Fire's big hit 'Wake Up', which doesn't appear in the film.

    This is a touchy subject given that Sendak's book has become so iconic: surely any successful adaptation must be considered a children's film? Additionally, I've railed against many so-called children's films which are blatantly not for children - films like Ratatouille and much of Dreamworks' output, which are films aimed at an adult audience disguised as children's animations. But what becomes quickly apparent is that Jonze didn't want to make a typical children's film - not by a long shot.

    Instead, Jonze wanted to make a film about what it felt like to be a child - a film not just for children in a demographic sense, but about children in a behavioural sense. He wanted to capture the burgeoning, pre-pubescent energy of Max, exploring how his rage and frustration manifests itself as the Wild Things and how he comes to grow in realising how hard is it to govern one's personified rage. Certainly there's nothing about the film that could be called cutesy or sanitised, which comes as a relief given Disney's involvement in the early stages of development.

    The next issue that any adaptation would have to confront is the story. Where The Wild Things Are is barely 10 sentences long, and sure enough there isn't a great deal of plot in the film. In a more extravagant fantasy vehicle, such as the ongoing Hobbit trilogy, the paucity of story would either be stretched out with ancillary material or serve as a jumping-off point to take things in a new direction. But again, Jonze does it differently: he completely acknowledges the limits of the source novel, delivering a film which is more about mood than story.

    The visual tone of Where The Wild Things Are is one of whistful melancholy, into which the great pockets of childish energy can invade. The colour palette is rooted in earthy, wooden browns, pale yellows and the greys of faded stuffed toys, giving the world of the Wild Things an instant feeling of age and mystery. Lance Acord, who has worked with Jonze since Being John Malkovich, emphasises the scale of the Wild Things and their isolation; they tower over Max in the close-ups, but otherwise the landscape towers over them.

    In creating this whistful tone, Jonze succeeds in both rooting the angst of Max and conveying the way in which time passes for a child of his age. Young children do not have the same grasp of efficient narrative storytelling that we embrace as adults; in their fantasies they often feel like they've been away for years, even if they can't describe everything they did in that time. Jonze beautifully captures the feeling present in the book that Max's adventure is like a half-remembered dream - and, as a bonus, works around the fact that not very much happens.

    The film also deserves credit for the realisation of the Wild Things. Having toyed with various CG options between the early-1980s and mid-2000s, the creatures were eventually brought to life through the Jim Henson Workshop. Despite being partially created with animatronics, they have none of the creakiness or jerky movements that we associate with this form of puppeteering. And while some CGI was involved to sync up the dialogue with the characters' lip movements, they still have an amazing and distinctive physicality, without which the film would simply be a failure.

    This brings us on naturally to the cast, who are generally very good. James Gandolfini is the stand-out among the voice actors, bringing a lot of anger to the part of Carol but also conveying the age of the Wild Things. Catherine Keener doesn't get a great deal of screen time, but she does convey the sense of frustration that sets the story in motion. As for the lead, Max Roberts takes a little while to bed into the role, but his performances is naturalistic enough to be convincing in the end.

    The other great success of Where The Wild Things Are is its subtlety. The book has often been interpreted as a Freudian text, in which the Wild Things are different manifestations of Max's anger. The lazy thing to do in these circumstances would have been to divide up Max's personality traits and deal them out to the Wild Things, so that each one would represent something at the expense of proper characterisation. Instead, Jonze leaves it open to us to decide the different Wild Things' significance, letting us be as imaginative as Max is.

    There are a couple of small problems with Where The Wild Things Are. In spite of consciously addressing the lack of plot and the choice of pacing, the film still feels slow or baggy in places. For everything that I've talked about, and all the successes in Jonze's approach, there remains a nagging feeling that more could have been done with the characters, which would in turn have justified the cinematic scale.

    Another smaller problem is the sound mixing. While the musical soundtrack fits pretty well with the action on screen, at times it is difficult to discern what the Wild Things are saying, particularly during their first encounter with Max. This becomes less of a problem as the film goes on and the acting becomes more boisterous, but it prevents us from getting in the zone with the characters sooner, which may put younger viewers off.

    Where The Wild Things Are is a very interesting achievement which will go down as one of the most intriguing and original children's adaptations in recent memory. While not everything about the story or its execution is entirely satisfying, Jonze deserves a lot of credit for capturing the mood and tone of Sendak's story, and for his realisation of the titular creatures. Whether as a playful exploration of a child's imagination or a complex Freudian journey, it is something that remain with you for a very long time.
  • December 6, 2012
    Often moody and somber, Spike Jonze's 'Where the Wild Things Are' is strangely an emotionally hefty film. The pathos created is unexpected, but captures the tone of the film well. I've never seen a film so vividly encompass the emotional roller coaster we call childhood. A great ... read moresoundtrack and amazing imagery definitely work in the movie's favor. A solid film, but it ends on a note that really isn't too upbeat, which is surprising for a film about a children's book. Jonze has definitely captured the soul of childhood, but the real question is whether or not he can capture his audience.
  • September 18, 2012
    Its a great Spike Jonze film! The music by Karen O. gives a playful tone for one of the most imaginative films of 2009. Even though the film wraps itself in catharsis behavior which leads to dark scenes for a PG film, there is a heartwarming feeling of nostalgia left at the end o... read moref this wonderful piece of cinema.
  • April 2, 2012

    I didn't enjoy Where The Wild Things are the first time I saw it, probably because it was so unexpected. I've watched it since and im proud to say that I did enjoy it the second time round. Its far from p... read moreerfect but it's perfection for telling a story that isn't coming of age but the end of one's innocence.
  • March 24, 2012
    Not to sound unprofessional but i want one of them monsters.
  • March 9, 2012
    Wow, "Where the Wild Things Are" accurately depicts the emotions and the thoughts that run through an angry boy in his early ages. The portrayal of such a neglected role in cinema shoots this movie high in my list. The cinematography and the CGI are huge pluses; they create the a... read moretmosphere of this movie. Even the most silent moments of this movie create deep emotional stir within the audience. This movie works effectively. There are cons however. The plot of the movie seems to point towards nowhere and the story's interest dips near the middle, but other than that, it is a great movie.
  • fb1664868775
    March 3, 2012
    A great adaptation of a childhood favorite. The reason it's great is because it goes off on it's own thing rather than sticking exactly to the book.
  • October 2, 2011
    Never been bored to death with movie again so much.Yes, this is for kids,yes, i don't know why people like it and NO i am definitely not recommending it for you or your kids.
  • August 15, 2011
    Where the Wild Things Are isn't a bad movie, but it is for kids and kids will be scared at this movie, these Wild Things are huge assholes, and I don't want to be on that island. It has a great story, production, so why did I think its not really good. The book was for kids, an... read mored the movie is a sad horror movie that scared the crap oy of me sometime, and was disgusting at many moments, it was a good movie, but should not be targeted for kids because they will be frightened, and leave the theatre not feeling the joy of a normal kids film.
  • fb732260458
    May 12, 2011
    A heartfelt children's story that doubles as a raw and uncompromising commentary on a child's emotional complex, Where The Wild Things Are is ultimately an adorable little film that simply reminded me of what it felt like to be a kid. A triumph for Spike Jonze, although it does c... read morearry a very dark tone and is sometimes very difficult to watch.

Critic Reviews

Ben Walters
December 11, 2009
Ben Walters, Time Out

'Where the Wild Things Are' stands out for its unusually potent evocation of the timbre of childhood imagining, with its combination of the outré and the banal, grand schemes jumbled up with delicate ... Full Review

Ann Hornaday
October 16, 2009
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

[Jonze has] achieved with the cinematic medium what Sendak did with words and pictures: He's grasped something true and terrifying about love at its most unconditional and voracious.

Liam Lacey
October 16, 2009
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

Wild Things, you do not make my heart sing. Full Review

Tom Long
October 16, 2009
Tom Long, Detroit News

Intellectually interesting, visually arresting and filled with invention, there's just one crucial thing Where the Wild Things Are is missing: wildness. Full Review

Lisa Kennedy
October 16, 2009
Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

Spike Jonze, we salute you. Full Review

Nancy Churnin
October 16, 2009
Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News

Director Spike Jonze gets that Max's subsequent journey to the far-off island of the wild things is nothing less than an odyssey into his mind.

Peter Rainer
October 16, 2009
Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

This blend of the real and unreal is successful because Jonze's feeling for childhood binds everything together. Full Review

Lou Lumenick
October 16, 2009
Lou Lumenick, New York Post

Some very good books were just never meant to be turned into movies. Sadly, you can now add Maurice Sendak's 1963 classic Where the Wild Things Are to that list. Full Review

Scott Von Doviak
October 16, 2009
Scott Von Doviak, Fort Worth Star-Telegram/

Aimlessly trudging through woods or desert, sniping and clawing at each other, Carol and his fellow wild things come to resemble the H.R. Pufnstuf crew on downers. Full Review

Mick LaSalle
October 16, 2009
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Where the Wild Things Are is audacious in its refusal to be reassuring, which makes it hard to love, but also hard to dismiss. Full Review

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    • KW: Step on my head.
    • Carol: No. Forget it. I'm not going to step on your head...just to make you feel better.
    • KW: Don't go. I'll eat you up, love you so.
    • Douglas: Will you keep out all the sadness?
    • Max: I have a sadness shield that keeps out all the sadness, and it's big enough for all of us.
    • Carol: I don't apologize to owls. Owls are stupid.
    • Judith: Happiness isn't always the best way to be happy.
  • Eric Goldberg (1995's Pocahontas) was at one point attached to direct.

Where the Wild Th... : Watch Free on TV

Where the Wild Things Are Trivia

  • Where the wild things are is based on a book by which author?  Answer »
  • The soundtrack to Where the wild things are is sung by the singer of which band?  Answer »
  • Max goes on a journey inside his own imagination to Where the Wild things are. Who plays the young boy?  Answer »
  • Notable & Influential Films of ____. The Princess and the Frog Antichrist Invictus Where the Wild Things Are A Serious Man  Answer »

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