I took my three youngest children to see Where the Wild Things Are yesterday.
I thought it was ok. There were some very cute scenes, some wonderful scenery, and some nice moments, but there were also dreary parts. I disliked the opening sequence shot in Max's real world house, where his overworked single mother was struggling with the balance thing and looking really pained and tired and making me feel like I had seen this in twenty movies before, and really Max's acting out was nothing that any experienced parent would have batted an eye at. Shouldn't a kid who is supposed to embody uncontrolled anger do something really bad?
Much more explicitly than in the book, the movie is about strong emotion and the troubles it brings. The wild things are basically big, emotionally troubled kids, who only forget their troubles when having the rowdiest fun, and as the movie shows, rowdy fun sometimes leads to more troubles. The combination of puppetry and digital effects worked very well, and I liked the wild things just fine. The main delight of the movie was watching them have fun together in their beautiful home, and the main problem was exactly what you would expect: in the book nothing happens in the land of the wild things but one wild rumpus, and the movie makers obviously had trouble figuring out what else do to.
I found the ending very interesting. Max seems to have solved his own troubles, for now, but he leaves the wild things much as he found them, fighting and sulking. One tells him, as he leaves, that he is the first king they didn't end up eating. I suppose that implies that while Max has mastered his emotional turmoil, others don't, and in the end are consumed by their wild things. I liked it that the movie makers didn't conjure some pat happy ending, but it did feel rather incomplete.
Clara, who is four, didn't have much reaction to the movie at all. Ben, who is nearly seven, liked it a lot. He squirmed a little during the scariest parts, but he had no real trouble, and he is not especially brave, so I think worries that the movie is too scary are overblown. He said that the end was the saddest thing he had ever seen -- he wanted Max to stay in the land of the wild things forever. The one who really loved the movie was my 12-year-old son Thomas. He loves the book, and he is exactly the kind of child the story is about, a rowdy boy who has trouble with his emotions. He came out raving about how good the movie was.