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"Let the wild rumpus start!"
In the book, Max is an angry little boy in a wolf costume who can't control his emotions and is sent to his room. There he is (depending on your interpretation) transported to/imagines a world populated by semi-feral monsters and is crowned their king because of his wild emotions. At first happy, he eventually grows tired of acting like a wild animal and goes back home.
In the Spike Jonze film, Max is an angry little boy in a wolf costume who is very intelligent and resents that his sister feels too old to spend time with him and that his mother's life is too busy to give him the attention he desires. This causes a conflict that ends with him running away to an island populated by semi-feral monsters who crown him king out of a need for someone to take care of them and their emotional needs. Unlike in the book, the monsters all have their individual characteristics and personalities that are usually in some way a reflection of portions of Max's personality. Although Max tries his best, eventually he realizes he loves the monsters but cannot be the leader or parent they need and returns home to his mother with a better appreciation of what she goes through. Most of the following tropes will deal with the film version (see Adaptation Expansion).
Provides Examples Of:
- A Boy and His Tribe of Monsters
- Mix-and-Match Critters: All of the monsters.
- Scenery Porn: Both the original's illustrations and the film has this a lot.
Specific to the book:
- No Name Given: All of the monsters. Sendak had names that never appeared in the book for some of them -- Tippy, Aaron, Moishe, Bruno, Emile, Bernard -- but never gave a name to the goat in the books or art (he's just referred to as Goat Boy).
- Word of God: The names of the monsters.
Specific to the film:
- Adaptation Distillation: Three of the monsters from the book (counting the sea monster) do not appear in the movie. The seven they use are quite enough.
- Adaptation Expansion: Pretty much required, as the original book was 10 sentences long.
- Alpha Bitch: Judith.
- Berserk Button: Mention any idea you have to Carol that could imply breaking up the clan of monsters, and may God have mercy on your soul!
- Bittersweet Ending
- Body Horror: See Only a Flesh Wound
- But Now I Must Go
- Butt Monkey: Alexander, the one whom no one cares about.
- Calvin Ball: All the games Max comes up with.
- The Chew Toy: Douglas, who is okay with being thrown around (literally). It's hilarious. So is his arm getting ripped off.
- Cool Big Sis: KW. Formerly Max's older sister, Claire.
- Coming of Age Story
- Deadpan Snarker: Judith
- Easily Forgiven: Carol. For damn near everything, including pulling Douglas's arm off.
- Empathic Environment: In one of the many sad moments in the film, snow begins to fall slowly.
- Fake Ultimate Hero
- Genre Savvy: Douglas shows Carol what's up and gets his arm ripped off for it.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Ira is obviously trying to neck Judith in one scene.
- Growing Up Sucks: Though really the film is more like "change in general is scary and can suck," than just growing up.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Carol, the lead wild thing, is Tony Soprano.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Bob and Terry. To Max and Carol, they are simply The Unintelligible.
- Ironic Echo: In the beginning of the movie, Max runs away from home after his mom says he was out of control after he bit her. By the end, Max says that Carol is out of control after Carol ripped off Douglas' arm, Max then proceeds to run away from an enraged Carol. And the same music plays both times!
- Kids Are Cruel: Max at the start.
- Let's Meet the Meat: "Hello, Richard."
- Mama Bear: KW
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane
- Mood Swinger: Carol, and, to a lesser extent, all of the wild things.
- Mood Whiplash: Goes from being funny to being serious to being sort of creepy to being sad. Several times.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Max, and ALL of the Wild Things with the vice being raging emotions.
- Mythology Gag: Perhaps not intentional, but Alexander's character was the only one who didn't get a nickname from the writer. In the movie, he's ignored by everyone to the point where he might as well not exist.
- No Name Given: The bison/bull in the movie. Bernard, per the credits and one brief line.
- Only a Flesh Wound: "That was my favorite arm."
- Parents as People
- Pop Star Composer: Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote the score for the film.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for the 2009 film pretty much shows Max having fun/goofy adventures with the titular Wild Things. The actual film, however, is pretty depressing.
- The Quiet One: Bernard.
- Sadist Teacher: Max's class on astronomy drifts off into a discussion on how everything is going to die, and a list of all the ways all of humanity could be wiped out, delivered cheerfully obliviously to a class of 9-year olds.
- Shout-Out: The line "I'll eat you up I love you so" is a variant of a line from the book that's found in the libretto of Oliver Knussen's little-known one-act opera based on Where the Wild Things Are.
- Max's mom also has a phone conversation with a "Mr. Lasseter". Back in the 80's John Lasseter attempted to make a WTWTA movie with Disney. It would have been one of the earliest examples of CGI in film, featuring traditionally animated characters in 3D CGI environments.
- There's a scene where Max is being shown his "kingdom", which is a pretty obvious reference to The Lion King. Some of the dialogue is very similar to that scene, as well.
- Snowball Fight: And dirtclod fight!
- Some Call Me... Tim: The monsters are Carol, Ira, KW, Judith, Douglas, Alexander, and Bernard.
- Swallowed Whole: When KW swallows Max so he can hide from Carol.
- Teens Are Monsters: Played with. Claire's friends don't wreck Max's snow fort out of malice but out of playing too hard for the smaller kid. They even look genuinely upset when they realize what they've done -- but are much too self-conscious to apologize.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Both the female wild things have long hair.
- Only Sane Man: The Monsters' voice of reason is Alexander. Too bad nobody ever listens to him.
- KW is pretty reasonable too, though she's disassociated with the rest.
- Villainous Breakdown: Carol towards the end.
- Watching the Sunset
- Wham! Line: "Just don't ever let Carol find out". At that moment, you just know what's going to happen next.