25 November 2009
At the movies: Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, Fantastic Mr. Fox gives us a Fox (voiced by George Clooney) in a bit of a midlife crisis. A renowned chicken-snatcher from back in the day, Mr. Fox has been biding his time as a little-read journalist and man-about-town. But in his heart is the pulse of a huntsman, and when confronted with three foul-tempered farmers, he sees an opportunity to make one last big score as well as scratch the itch that’s been plaguing him for the past twelve fox years.
Wes Anderson, acclaimed crafter of stylized domestic dramas (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore), making a stop-motion animation film about foxes. With puppets? The whole announcement and advance word seemed a little off, but the end results are speaking for themselves, with Anderson’s gift for hermetic playset filmmaking flourishing in the confines of the frame and the physical limitations of the style of animation chosen.
It’s no wonder people are blown away by the technique and heartfelt storytelling on display here. So much effort, across the board, has gone into this majestic little jewel, that one can't help but be bowled over by its quirky and immersive charms. More love and care went into a one minute-long scene set in a science lab here than went into all 150 million dollars of effects in Transformers 2.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is precisely that, and more. It’s a great example of a gifted filmmaker stretching out and encompassing a new form of visual language, and it’s a remarkable achievement in creating anthropomorphized critters that feel completely of a piece with Anderson’s universe. Here’s a film for the whole family, but one to be enjoyed on many different levels.
It’s a masterful fake-out on behalf of Anderson and co-screenwriter Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Kicking and Screaming (the good one, not the Will Ferrell one)), because you go in to Mr. Fox expecting pleasantry, and what you get is a kind of majesty. A wonderful film for all to enjoy.