The minus I give this children's story pains me. As I have written many times, I don't enjoy movies that can in any way be described as a cartoon/fable, which surely this film is. So I went to this movie somewhat prejudiced against it.
The picture is based on a book by Maurice Sendak whom I know and admire. I once asked him to illustrate a children's book that I was writing with my sister about my brother who was a great athlete, unlike myself as I was terrible at sports. He declined saying that his style and type of art would not be appropriate for our book.
The story is about a young boy, Max (Max Records), who lives with his loving mother (Catherine Keener) and his sister, a minor character in the film. Max runs away one night, crosses a body of water, and lands on a island where he meets a half-dozen creatures who accept him as their king. Max doesn't know that they have had other kings, all of whom they have eaten.
animal characters--hybrids and scary in appearance--look like they had been on "The
Island of Dr. Moreau." The lead animal,
Carol (voice of James Gandolfini), is really frightening. He constantly threatens to eat Max, but is
sorry when Max leaves the island. KW
(voice of Lauren Ambrose) is a female of the same species. She saves Max from Carol by taking him into
her mouth for a short while and then releases him.
If I had seen this film when I was eight, I would have been terrified. That did not seem to be the case with the youngsters in the theater when I saw the picture. I did not hear one child cry during the movie.
I saw the film with PA, who did not enjoy it, and with PB who did. I was advised by PT, who has not seen the film, that I would look and sound like a jerk if I criticized it. So, while I won't disparage it, I must state that I did not enjoy it. After seeing the picture, my friends and I questioned what the moral was. No one could come up with one except for PT who said it was that a little boy could master his own savage emotions.
HG said he disliked the ending most of all. After Max gets home safe and sound, his mother falls to her knees, hugs him, and gives him chocolate cake and milk. I said that was the only scene I loved. HG said, "She was too forgiving, and the kid will run away again." So, Maurice, while I didn't enjoy the film, you did something quite brilliant: you got us all thinking and arguing about the movie which is no small feat.