As daring as it might seem for director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) to switch gears and take a crack at an animated film for the first time, adapting a best selling children’s book from a legendary author is arguably the bigger gamble. Or so you would think. With FANTASTIC MR. FOX, a film based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, Anderson rarely steps out of his comfort zone. The risks are few simply because he’s managed to inject enough of his own personality into Dahl’s work to make it his own. In retrospect, the movie fits perfectly into his filmography.
Those familiar with his work will instantly recognize his trademark humor, wit, the familiar voices he casts for his films and his penchant for putting together an amazing soundtrack of folk and classic rock.
Nevertheless, as an animated film it is quite refreshing to look at. The stop motion techniques used are a welcomed break from the computer generated animations we’re so accustomed to seeing nowadays. Anderson’s attention to detail doesn’t go unnoticed either, and the work of the animators should also be recognized given the challenges of animating real fur.
One other note: if you’ve grown up with Dahl’s work, which also includes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, you might not welcome the notion that Anderson takes many liberties with the ‘Mr. Fox script’, going as far as adding several scenes to make it work as a feature length film.
As it plays out in the film, Mr and Mrs Fox (George Clooney and Meryl Streep) live an idyllic home life with their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and visiting young nephew Kristopherson (Eric Anderson). But after 12 years, the tranquil lifestyle proves to be too dull for Mr Fox’s wild animal instincts. Soon he slips back into his old ways as a sneaky chicken thief and in doing so, endangers not only his beloved family, but the whole animal community. Trapped underground and with not enough food to go around, the animals band together to fight against three evil farmers.
In the end, the film never quite grabs you emotionally the way a Pixar movie will, but I’m not sure that any of his live action films have either. Regardless, Fantastic Mr. Fox is very kid friendly and fun watch for the whole family.