Fantastic Mr. Fox

George Clooney and Meryl Streep were big contenders at the awards shows this year for separate movies but they did once work together on quite an unusual and unique film. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) is a delightful old school stop-motion puppet animated film based on the children’s book of the same name by well-known English author Roald Dahl, whose other works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach, which were also made into films. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a perfect blending of Roald Dahl’s storytelling and director Wes Anderson’s unique sensibility as a playful semi comic film maker who deals with serious family topics in such wonderful whimsical films as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). His films have attracted a cult following for his unusual understated comic style and this, his first animated film, fits right in with that style and is considered one of his best.

The set design and character animation is richly textured and alive with eye catching, lavish detail and has a hand crafted organic quality that immerses you in its warm scenic world of English countryside farmlands, and a varied array of furry creatures like foxes, badgers, rabbits, moles, weasels, rats etc., living underground in a cozy domestic English lifestyle. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox is about a middle aged family man fox going through a midlife crisis and living with his wife and son in the English country side as he struggles between his animal instincts to rob chickens and food from nasty neighboring farmers and his duties as a husband and father. His thieving exploits results in a full scale war with the farmers who want revenge, putting his entire community in danger. There are themes running through the film of father-son/husband wife relationships, recognition of our natural talents, mentoring/bullying, family survival, and being true to our nature. 

The story feels like a moral animal fable by Aesop with its charismatic, over confident Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, stumbling into one mess after another as he tries to regain his status as a community champion and relive the glory days of his youth.

Theme wise Fantastic Mr. Fox has a lot in common with Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004) which also dealt with the midlife crisis of a middle aged husband trying to regain the superhero status of his youth as he struggles with family responsibilities.

The film is also about the positive spirit of a community of individuals coming together and using their unique abilities to survive a common crisis, much like the current debt crisis and austerity measures we are enduring in our own lives today. Fantastic Mr. Fox feels more relevant today than when it first came out in 2009.

The rest of the cast include Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Bill Murray as Badger his lawyer, Owen Wilson as a  whack bat coach, Willem Defoe as a security guard rat and Brian Cox as a small town reporter. 

Watch for Wes Anderson’s new film called Moonrise Kingdom coming May 25th 2012.



Michael Charney said...

Fantastic Mr. Fox was a movie that just didn't do it for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high because of the pedigree surrounding the project, but I found the performances flat and the story a bit tired.

But then, everything pales next to Wall-E... !

JP said...

Yes Wall-E was a great film by Pixar,
and directed by Andrew Stanton who also directed the new film John Carter which is opening in cinemas this Friday.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

Those are two of my favorite actors, so I guess I'll have to see it! Thanks for another really helpful review!

VagueRant said...

I was reluctant to watch this film for so long because the commercials, being Wes Anderson's way of advertising too I suspect, didn't offer much in the way of appeal. The bright colors and quirky gestures seemed to induce that nauseating effect most Japanese children expect in every other show too.

But curiosity got the better of me and I watched it. My wife loved it and I can stand to see it a few more times. I did like the humor. The animation was top-notch too!

I'm glad you reviewed it :o)

Vivian said...

Your review has interested me I am definitely going to watch "Fantastic Mr Fox"

JP said...

Thanks Vivian. Hope you like it.