Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - Underrated Gem from Wes Anderson

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - It Has Bill Murray, so it is Good

Film poster for The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Based on a 1970 novel by , "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) is much more Wes Anderson and than it is Dahl. This film will appeal to adults as well as the children at which it is aimed. Characters smoke, "cuss," and do all the things that people do that generally don't turn up in children's animation. If you are familiar with Anderson's work, you know to expect a lot of dry comedy, and that is exactly what you get in "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
Mr. Fox reading in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Mr. Fox, Man of the World
Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) like to raid farms in their spare time, but Fox's real job is as a newspaper columnist. After having a son, he decides to upgrade his family's living quarters from a hole in the ground to a tree despite warnings from his lawyer Badger (Bill Murray) that he is inviting danger.  He also gives up his thieving ways for the sake of family stability.  Fox's nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) comes to live with them, but Fox's son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) doesn't like Kristofferson because everyone dotes on him due to his excellence at sports.
Mr. Fox riding a motorcycle in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Just because you're a fox doesn't mean you can't have fun
Fox eventually tires of dull lawful life, so he and his friend Kylie Sven Opossum (Wallace Wolodarsky) take to stealing from the three farmers who live nearby: Walter Boggis (Robin Hurlstone); Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guiness); and Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon). The farmer set a trap for Fox and shoot at him, but he escapes at the cost of his tail. Frustrated, the farmers dig into Fox's home, but he escapes through an emergency tunnel.
Mr. Fox in work clothes in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The name's Fox... Mr. Fox
Fox decides to strike back, and enlists his friends to dig a tunnel to the farms so they can steal from them easier.  Ash and Kristofferson surface to recover Fox's tail, but Kristofferson is captured.
Mr. Fox turning around in front of his desk in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Mr. Fox is proud of his study
The fighting escalates, with the farmers flooding the animals' tunnels with cider, forcing Fox and friends into the sewers.  Fox finds out where Kristofferson is being held and asks the farmer for a meeting.  They agree to an exchange, but everybody double-crosses each other and Ash must prove he has matured in order to free Kristofferson.
Mr. and Mrs. Fox in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Mrs. Fox is the Perfect Wife
The interplay between the animals is witty and fun, and the stop-motion animation - 20th Century Fox's first - is superb.  The colors are autumnal, all yellows, oranges and browns, giving the film a very soft feel.  Three tunes by Burl Ives were used, in an apparent nod to the seasonal stop-motion classic Rankin/Bass holiday special "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," in which Burl Ives voiced the narrator, Sam the Snowman. There is some action, including a fight to the death, which might scare some younger viewers.
Mr. Fox and the Rat in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Mr. Fox trying to work things out like an adult
The voice actors are all top-notch. Rather than have them record their lines in a studio, Anderson took them on location and had them approximate the situation of their characters in the film when the dialogue was spoken. Thus, some was spoken underground, other dialogue in closets, etc. It all gives the film a fresh feel that often is lacking in the animation of other studios.
Wes Anderson adjusting character figures in The Fantastic Mr. Fox
It must be wonderful to grow up, still play with your toys, and get paid for it
"Odd" is a word often used to describe Anderson films, but that is not necessarily bad.  If you are tired of the current Pixar/DreamWorks/Amblin style of animation, which is polished to perfection and a bit too all-that at times, this film is a great antidote.  Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl make a great team.



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