Before I saw Where The Wild Things Are, I would say that the best family film of the year was Up. After having seen Where The Wild Things Are, I now have to say that the best family film of the year is...Up. I mention this because I'm wondering if Wild Things is suffering in comparison to Up because, honestly, I was kind of expecting another Up when I bought the ticket for Wild Things. Also, I somehow missed the famous childrens book of the same name when I was growing up. A few people have written the standard, "YOU STOLE MY CHILDHOOD," articles but from what I've seen most of the adults who really loved it had read and loved the book when they were kids.
This all sounds like I'm trashing the movie. I actually think it's very good. A boy named Max who looks to be around the age of 9 builds a snow fort and begins organizing and addressing imaginary troops. He does not understand why his mom and teenage sister Claire have no interest in coming outside to see his fort. He comes up with what I'm sure seems like an ingenious plan to him: he'll start a snowball fight with his sister's friends. In most movies, the teenage boys would have been sadistic bullies but instead they act like normal kids and start throwing snowballs back at Max and end up very playfully smashing Max's snow fort. Again, they didn't do this to be mean but Max doesn't see it that way. Upset that Claire and her friends left him in tears, he kicks snow all over her room and breaks a few things. Later on Max is unable to draw his mom's attention away from her work. She tries, mind you, but she's busy. Max's childhood is typical for a lot of kids being raised by single moms but Max doesn't really know that and feels neglected on an grand scale by both his mom and sister. This neglect reaches epic levels when Mom brings home a new boyfriend to dinner and Max, dressed up in a wolf costume he likes to wear, digs in and throws a major league tantrum. Max's behavior gets downright frightening and he even goes so far as to bite his mom but, being a kid, he doesn't know another way to deal with his anger. He gets away from Mom and runs into...well, that's where it gets interesting.
I'm not sure if Max dozed off in the woods or if he's awake and fantasizing but it really doesn't matter. Max finds a small boat and sails it out to sea. After a couple days, he finds an island that serves as the home of the Wild Things, large talking beasts who are trying to deal with one of their more petulant members named Carol. Carol, like Max, is in a mood to smash things because someone he cared about, a girl named KW, has left the group to hang out with her new friends. KW returns for a while when the Things make Max their king but she insists on bringing along her new friends, a pair of owls named Bob and Terry. Carol hates them because they draw KW's attention away from him. As the king, Max now finds himself in the same position his mother is in. He has to deal with a being who doesn't know a way to express his hurt feelings other than anger and violence.
The movie has some slow spots which is what pulls it down from being a great movie but it's still a pretty damn good one. It's wonderful to see so much imagination on the screen and it's a dramatic improvement from the amount of imagination you normally see in movies, that being absolutely none. I liked Where The Wild Things Are and could probably see it again.