FANTASTIC MR. FOX
****1/2 (out of 5)
November 25, 2009
George Clooney as MR. FOX
Meryl Streep as MRS. FOX
Jason Schwartzman as ASH
Bill Murray as BADGER
Wally Wolodarsky as KYLIE
Eric Anderson a KRISTOFFERSON
Michael Gambon as FRANKLIN BEAN
Willem Dafoe as RAT
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Wes Anderson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When I was a kid, my father read Roald Dahl’s classic books to me and my sister, including “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” While I remember it as my favorite of his books, much of the story and characters have been lost on me over the years. Still, when I heard it was being given a feature film treatment, I was excited.
Throw Wes Anderson – one of my favorite directors – into the mix, along with some retro stop-motion animation, and this soon became one of my most anticipated films of the season.
The story follows Mr. Fox, a bird hunter who has settled down to raise a family. With memories of his halcyon days as a hunter, Mr. Fox sneaks out to the nearby farmers of Boggis, Bunce and Bean to raid their stores of food, cider and anything else he can get his hands on. Unfortunately, the bitter farmers decide to get revenge for the raids and attack Mr. Fox and his woodland friends. Soon, Mr. Fox organizes the many animals and makes an attempt to fight back.
While watching the movie, a lot of the book came back to me, in particular the comical yet slightly terrifying farmers at odds with Mr. Fox. This was perhaps the best way for me to experience it, with some vague memories of original book that still let me experience the wonder of the stop-motion animated film.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is not a completely accurate translation of the book. While plenty of Roald Dahl’s original oddities are still in the film, Anderson has included a lot of his quirkiness, particularly in the dialogue.
However, this is not a bad thing. Fans of either artist may not think that Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl could mate to make such a clever and intriguing film, but it works in a miraculous way.
Anderson has always relied on understated performances and observational comedy of the moment rather than outright slapstick and belly laughs. This meshes very well with the world that Roald Dahl put forth in the books. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is unlike anything from either Anderson or Dahl, and that helps make it work.
Sure, the animation is rough, and some folks might be inclined to say this is an indication of the movie’s poor quality. But just as Anderson captures the essence of 70s-era filmmaking in movies like “The Royal Tennenbaums,” he uses the warts on the choppy stop-motion to deliver a unique film experience. Too often in today’s cinematic landscape, we’re given slick looking CGI movies with no heart, like the quite dreadful “Planet 51.” It’s about time that every animated film wasn’t trying to revamp the Pixar films to a lesser degree.
If you remember the charm of the old Rankin/Bass stop-motion television specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Year Without a Santa Claus,” you will find a sweet bit of nostalgia in this film.
There’s a wonderful mix of silliness and tenderness with “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” It shows a quirky little world that is no bigger than it needs to be, and it delivers some of the best low-key laughs I’ve seen in a while. However, it’s also friendly and approachable enough to make is a great film for kids to watch with their parents.