Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the best films of the year!
Adapted from – and expanded upon – Roald Dahl’s excellent book, Fox is an original. An organic delight from start to finish. The story of a slightly egocentric fox [he has a trademark!] who gives up stealing chickens and squabs for the somewhat less exciting life of a newspaper columnist when his wife tells him she’s pregnant is an odd mix of civility and ferocity.
A dozen fox years after the Foxes retire from animal larceny, Mr. Fox [voiced by George Clooney] moves his family from its comfortable subterranean home into a more expensive [and expansive] condo in a tree. When the move does nothing to assuage his feelings, he decides he can’t give up his animal nature without one last kick at the cat and comes up with a plan – a Masterplan – to steal the assets of the meanest guys in the area: Boggis [Robin Hurlstone], Bunce [Hugo Guinness] and Bean [Michael Gambon]. All this unbeknownst to Mrs. Fox [Meryl Streep] and their son, Ash [Jason Schwartzman]
He does enlist the aid of his nephew Kristofferson [Eric Anderson] and condo super Kylie [Wally Wolodarsky] – but things come undone when the three entrepreneurs declare war on Fox and start tearing up the valley.
Like the original, Anderson’s film adaptation gives his animal characters voices that might not be far from those the animals would have if they could talk. Then, he gives the animals the kind of anthropomorphic behavior that narrators of wildlife film narrators insist on giving the animals they are watching. But, and here is where both the book and the film are clever, under the patina of civilization these characters remain wild animals [see Mr. Fox and family settle in for breakfast and then attack their food like the predators they are!].
The film’s stop-motion animation is wonderful. Like Coraline earlier this year, the medium is used to give a feel of weight and reality that we have yet to see from other forms of animation [that jury will be out until we see Avatar]. The result is animals with fur that bristles and ruffles like the real thing – only a little more chaotically. Also, because of the dimensionality of the form, the feeling of menace is much more real. When there’s a flood of cider, or Fox loses his tail, it has impact.
Although rated PG, there is a lot of material that could scare smaller children [though many of those small children will be eager to experience it – kids love a bit of danger when presented in a safe environment; I know I did]. Whether your kids should see it is up to you.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is, I say again, one of the best films of the year!
Final Grade: A+