Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox
PLOT: An upwardly mobile fox (George Clooney), tiring of his quiet, uneventful life, hatches a plan to steal chickens, ducks, turkey and cider from three greedy farmers: Boggis, Bunce and Bean. His scheme backfires when the trio declares war on Mr. Fox putting his family and friends in danger.
REVIEW: After experimenting with stop motion animation in THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, director Wes Anderson has finally taken the plunge, and made an entire film in this form. Considering the heightened reality, and quirky retro charm of Anderson's previous work, making an animated film isn't really that much of a stretch, and THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX really does feel like a true Wes Anderson film.
In fact, not only does it fit in with his canon, I'd wager that THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is his best film since LIFE AQUATIC. It's not that I didn't like his last film, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, it's just that I couldn`t help but feel it was a tad pretentious and ponderous, and lacked the fun of his other films. FANTASTIC MR. FOX really brings back that spirit.
All of the Anderson hallmarks are here- the quirky humor, the sixties British Invasion soundtrack (although we get some Beach Boys thrown in for good measure), and the hip voice cast liberally sprinkled with some of Anderson's favorite actors, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Michael Gambon (many other Anderson regulars, like Brian Cox, Adrian Brody, and Owen Wilson have cameos).
Making his first appearance in a Anderson film is star George Clooney who's really the ideal guy to be voicing the affable, yet roguish Mr. Fox. Despite the animated form, Mr. Fox really does feel like a full-on Clooney characterization, and his chemistry with Meryl Streep (who plays Mrs. Fox) is palpable. I also loved his verbal sparring with Murray, and couldn't help but think what a great ghost buster Clooney would make in GHOSTBUSTERS 3 if it ever gets off the ground.
Of course, being an Anderson film, THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is really about family, which is a theme Anderson has gone back to in each of his films. Mr. Fox, while yearning to be free to poach chickens, really does love his wife, and son (Jason Schwartzman), and only does what he does to make a better life for them. He also cares about his entire community, and when he puts them in jeopardy, he's willing to do anything to save them
There's also something interesting going on here about how each person has a place in the world, and should never be afraid to go beyond their station in life. This is nicely developed in a strong, and surprisingly bittersweet subplot involving Mr. Fox's tanglings with a switchblade wielding rat (voiced by the great Willem Dafoe), who spends his life guarding barrels of cider, in the hope that one day, the miserly Mr. Bean will allow him to have a taste. The point is made that he's wasting his life hoping against hope that he'll be given something that he could easily take for himself, if only he had the courage.
I really hope THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is a big hit for Anderson, as it's very accessible, and would probably work fairly well for kids (although it's FAR less manic than your usual animated film). I must admit that when I heard Anderson was making an animated film, I wasn't all that excited, as I figured it would be toned down to the point that it wouldn't really feel like an Anderson film. I shouldn't have worried, as- while this is definitely PG territory, this doesn't feel compromised at all. While it's based on a kids book by Roald Dahl, it must be said that this feels more in line with Anderson's work than Dahl's. However, Id be willing to bet Dahl would have appreciated Anderson's take on his work a lot more than the recent Tim Burton "re-imagining" of CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.
Hopefully, people will get out and support this film, as it really is a lot of fun, and is another win for Anderson, who once again proves that he's one of the best directors in the biz. It's ninety minutes of pure joy and, at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is fantastic!