Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

By
Dec 23rd, 2009


Mr. Fox, although a kleptomaniac and an irresponsible sociopathological thrill-seeker, sure is charming and sometimes even quote-unquote fantastic.  But what about the farmers? Boggis, Bunce and Bean are certainly “three of the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers around,” but does that really warrant us victimizing and sympathizing with Mr. Fox for troubles he brings upon himself?  Well, yeah.  Sure, the farmers were ostensibly minding their own business before our anti-social hero lied to his family and stole some chickens, but in the fascinating, whimsical world of Wes Anderson, it all seems strangely justified.  And I’m okay with that.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, is Anderson’s fifth feature film and his first comprised entirely of stop-motion animation, an unimaginably painstaking process whereby clay models are photographed, altered ever so slightly, then photographed again ad infinitum until the images are strung together to create a motion picture.  The effect is charming, nostalgic and feels oddly more like a Wes Anderson creation than any of his previous films, with the exception of the brilliantly designed “The Royal Tenenbaums.”  The ever-quivering fur, the side-scrolling cinematography and the idiosyncratic movements of the characters culminate in the most obsessively detail-oriented cinematic creation in years.  Notorious for his implacable perfectionism, Anderson finally does away with pesky human actors that only complicate his vision in favor of an entirely malleable universe that allows him to control literally everything and everyone inside.

What human actors he does work with, however, turn in stellar voice-over performances.  George Clooney’s distinctive smooth baritone blends seamlessly into the cocksure persona of the suave Mr. Fox.  Jason Schwartzman delivers a mumble-core stew of insecurity and hilarious one-liners as his neglected son who just wants to be an athlete.  Bill Murray’s pragmatic Badger is perfectly cast as Mr. Fox’s lawyer/demolitions expert.  And the indomitable Willem Dafoe sports yet another comically indeterminate foreign accent for Anderson as Rat, the mysterious security agent employed by one of the ugly farmers.

But as important aesthetic is to Anderson, it’s not everything.  Although sometimes accused of favoring style over substance, the auteur’s unique and diverse body of work is almost always oscillating at some finely tuned, nuanced frequency of human emotion.  Humanity has a habit of emerging triumphant in Anderson’s films, and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is no different.  The importance of family, no matter how dysfunctional, is the theme that eventually supersedes the cheeky narrative of a sly fox stealing chickens for kicks.

Score: 5/5

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8 comments
mconductor
mconductor

Sorry, but I read this as validation to Anderson's UNoriginality. He's become lazy and just reproduces the same film...just like the formula written here. Two of my favorite films ever, by anyone, are his first two, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. Both very original in their own right and unique from his Tenenbaums style. I keep trying his new movies, hoping for something new, but am immensely frustrated at how predictable they've become. Please don't suggest I 'just quit watching his films' as I want to see his originality and real talent come to the screens again.

Tattedgrl
Tattedgrl

wes always seems to make me smile and think.. wonder what the characters are doing next.. 

Matt
Matt

The combination of dry humor and sincerity gets me every time.

Hilary Bovay
Hilary Bovay

I remember the first time I saw one of Wes Anderson's films - it was The Royal Tenenbaums - I was completely captivated.  The dialogue was sharp and funny, the colors were perfection, the characters were incredibly layered and crazy and bizarre and fun, and every single shot was so delicious, I simply couldn't make my eyes wide enough to take in all the detail.  I could list a million things that I adore about Wes's films, but I recall those as the very first that mesmerized me.  After the film was over, I said to the friend I was with: "What WAS that?" with the biggest grin on my face.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I was so eager for more. [email protected]

okaybenji
okaybenji

Wes Anderson is an auteur. It'd be impossible to give just a single reason why his films are wonderful. Everything mentioned above plus the music, the cinematography, the costumes, the fantastic characters and the actors who play them... I could go on.

Rodolfo Morales
Rodolfo Morales

Wes Anderson adds a unique style and touch to his films, his films are very original and artistic.

Jared Rosenberg
Jared Rosenberg

My favorite element of Wes's films are his characteristically Anderson-ian cinematic choices...top down shots, wide-angle lenses, slo-mo montages - a Wes Anderson movie without these is a PB + J sandwich without the J.

Marcy S
Marcy S

The music! It sets the scene, the mood, and can even tell you something about a character. Such unique and unexpected music choices in each of Wes Anderson's movies, his soundtracks are always on my playlist.

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