I really liked it. Hell, I wanted to give everyone in the movie a hug.
Mind you, I did part of my thesis on Maurice Sendak, so I kind of "get" him. And in saying that, I can see why some people wouldn't like this. It IS weird. It looks -and, more importantly, it feels- absolutely like a Maurice Sendak illustration in motion. More to the point, and this might be what turned so many people off this movie, it doesn't play by the unspoken rules of what a kid's movie is "supposed" to be these days.
The characters really get hurt and angry and sad. The little boy acts like an actual little boy and throws tantrums when his sister ignores him, bawls openly when his face is accidentally planted in the snow (there are few things worse), and plays under his mom's desk and tells her strange kid-logic stories off the top of his head. He does not act like a snarky miniature adult. He grows and changes but there's no inevitable "and then we all learned a lesson" moment.
It puts a lot of naked emotion on the screen and lets you deal with it on your own. There's no hand-holding and no babysitting. "Where the Wild Things Are" actually reminds me less of any current movie made for children and more of the time, not too long ago, when children's entertainment could be really weird and offbeat, and could haunt you with questions and ideas and images you suspected, as a child, that even mom and dad couldn't answer or explain for you.
Kids need more movies like this. I watched "Don't You Forget About Me", the documentary about John Hughes and his films, shortly after I watched this and the thing that hit me was something that kept coming up with all the teenagers interviewed for the film: they could not relate in any way at all to what modern-day Hollywood thinks young people are like. The only characters that reminded them of themselves were the ones in Hughes' twenty-something year old movies. Hughes had a knack for writing young people who thought and felt the way adults usually like to pretend they don't really act and feel. That's a rare gift, but I'd say Spike Jones inherits it here.
And, yes, it is a children's film. One that had my entire family enthralled. I say do what our parents did in the '80s: sit your kids in front of it and leave them be. We made out okay, right?
It is freakin' miraculous that this movie exists in the form it does. I haven't even mentioned that it's also absolutely gorgeous and is the one movie out of the many many films I've seen recently that really stuck with me (well, except for the two I'll review over the rest of this week). I could go on, but a lot of my feelings are echoed here.
Sketch of the Day!
Here's a Gryphon: