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Where the Wild Things Are 

Wednesday, Jan 20 2010
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Directed by Spike Jonze from a 400-word children’s book first published in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are may be the toughest adaptation since Tim Burton fashioned Mars Attacks! from a series of bubblegum cards. Elaborating on a classic, Jonze has struggled to bring the book to the screen for even longer than the eight years Maurice Sendak took to finish it. The result isn’t labored, so much as well-behaved. It’s difficult not to watch the movie as a series of decisions carefully made by Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers: Will the unruly protagonist Max remain a pre-literate five or be older? (Older.) Is the projection of his inner world best achieved through animation or puppetry? (Puppetry.) What sort of music will comment on the action? (Insipid indie rock.) But, mainly, how to open up the story? When mom (Catherine Keener) brings a date home, Max (Max Records) dons his wolf suit and chomps down on her shoulder. “You’re out of control!” she shrieks as the bad boy flees the house, finds a boat, and sails off to discover his fellow Wild Things. He becomes their king and proclaims that the mad, dancing, shouting Wild Rumpus must begin. What’s best about Jonze’s movie is its kinetic feel for physical play—herky-jerky camera as Max and the WTs zip through the forest. What’s weakest is its blandness—the psychic environment is less King Kong’s Skull Island than Fred Rogers’s neighborhood: Where the Wild Things Aren’t.
Sun., Jan. 24, 2, 4:15, 7:15 & 9:25 p.m.; Mon., Jan. 25, 7:15 & 9:25 p.m.; Tue., Jan. 26, 7:15 & 9:25 p.m., 2010

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J. Hoberman

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