Directed by Spike Jonze from a 400-word childrens 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 isnt labored, so much as well-behaved. Its 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. Youre 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. Whats best about Jonzes movie is its kinetic feel for physical playherky-jerky camera as Max and the WTs zip through the forest. Whats weakest is its blandnessthe psychic environment is less King Kongs Skull Island than Fred Rogerss neighborhood: Where the Wild Things Arent.
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