I know that it can be common for people to see the film without having read the book, but it is true for me in this case, of the well-known children’s picture book. I am aware of it, and the visual style, but that’s it; the film is effectively something entirely new.
Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers have created something unusual, as slightly unusual child Max (the wonderfully named Max Records) goes on a voyage and meets a group of monsters. The monsters are impressive – the animatronics (from the Jim Henson studios), over six foot tall, are both monstrous and enchanting (with a little help from some CGI for the mouths), really bringing the wild things to life.
The voices of the wild things are really impressive: Catherine O’Hara, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker and Lauren Ambrose sound perfect for the creatures, with voice work that feels appropriate for the world that Jonze creates. James Gandolfini is the main wild thing and, although he voices the character perfectly – his soft voice seeming child-like and gentle, but quick to turn to that powering rage of his – his nasal Jersey accent seems so out of place, it kept jarring me out of the film.
I think this is a film that both adults and children can enjoy on different levels, reflecting the wonder and energy of a child’s imagination with the contemplation and maturing of the adult. I would call it a good film, but it didn’t beguile as perhaps it might have if I had grown up loving the book; however, I enjoyed the world created with its soft and washed out colours and the hand-held camera work making it feel real.