Fantastic Mr. Fox Short Review (4 of 5)
Fantastic Mr. Fox is the second movie I’ve seen recently that’s based on a children’s book, the other being Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are…. Just like Jonze, Wes Anderson (the director) took the source material and made it very much his own. This has all the eccentricities of a typical Anderson movie like the camera work, the ‘look’ and the yesteryear soundtrack. If you like his movies, you’ll probably like this one. I did. If you hate his movies, well… Give this one a try anyway.
I have to compare this a little to a couple of other movies that I have reviewed here; the aforementioned Where The Wild Things Are and Men Who Stare At Goats. Unlike Wild Things, this movie was very upbeat and was much more fun than that one. And unlike the Goat movie (which also starred George Clooney ) this was very fast paced besides just being ‘quirky’.
The story moved along very rapidly with lots of twists and turns. Anderson made sure that even in the moments where characters were just talking, there was still a lot going on ( I enjoyed Ash’s preoccupation with the ‘White Cape’ who is never really talked about by name. You just see the White Cape posters, the comics, etc… I also loved the kid badger in the skeleton costume).
I’m sure upon a 2nd viewing that I will see things that I did not catch the first time (and I think I caught a lot). Like all of Anderson’s movies, careful attention is paid to each character… Their mannerisms, clothes, their surroundings…. Every character, no matter how minor, seems to have a back story.
The movie makes use of traditional stop motion animation and is layered with the trademark Wes Anderson detailing. I don’t think the CGI route would have fit the director’s quirky style half as well as the stop motion method does. There is real art in the puppet and prop builders and there is just something that I have always found cool about this style of animation. Maybe it reminds me of the old Rudolph Christmas cartoon, I don’t know, but I like it.
The story itself is about a fox (the Fantastic Mr. Fox) voiced by George Clooney.Mr. Fox is basically a chicken thieving con artist, but promises his lady love (voiced by Meryl Streep) that he’ll get a legitimate line of work when she reveals that she is pregnant. So he becomes a newspaper columnist.
Not happy with his lot in life (living in a hole), he moves his family into a very luxurious tree that has a few drawbacks to it. For one, it’s overlooking the farms of some of the most diabolical farmers in the entire world.
He’s only satisfied for a short time, before he begins plotting to raid the farms in one last big heist with aid first from his friend Kylie (a spacey opossum played by Wallace Wolodarsky), and Kristofferson (Mr. Fox’s gifted nephew…).
Of course this upsets the farmers… Not only that, but it disrupts his happy home life. He’s lying to his wife about the heist and his son Ash (voiced by Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman) feels inferior to Kristofferson, especially when Mr Fox enlists him into the heist scheme. And all of this snowballs into a mass of complications that encapsulates the entire animal community. I won’t give away any more. It’s worth finding out for yourself.
There were plenty of ‘cameo’ parts by Anderson regulars such as Big Bad Bill Murray (as Badger, Mr. fox’s lawyer), Owen Wilson (as Coach Skip who relates the athletic exploits of Mr. Fox to his son) and of course Willem Dafoe (as the villainous Rat, a scoundrel from the Fox family’s past). Dafoe has had some pretty diverse roles in his career.
Someone with too much time on their hands combined this with another Dafoe movie of late that might give you a chuckle or two. That’s Dafoe’s voice at the end…
Brian Cox and Wes Anderson also add voice work and I was also VERY happy to see that the lovely Karen ‘Duff’ Duffy (of MTV VJ fame) voiced the character of Linda Otter. I always loved her. I hear she’s had some up and downs with her health lately.
Anyway… It’s an all ages movie. They don’t curse, but they do say ‘cuss’ a lot, which was pretty funny. It was actually one of the more entertaining ‘family’ movies that I’ve seen and would compare this in quality to older ‘family’ films such as Time Bandits and The Dark Crystal. Maybe not quite as good and resounding as those 2, but this one’s right up there. 4 of 5 Whatevers. A great effort!