Reviews: The Fantastic Mr Fox

Julia Cooke lays out the facts regarding Wes Anderson’s latest, the animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Take a classic fiction by Roald Dahl, combine it with the genius of Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach and a pawful of talented actors, artists and animators and you know what you’ll have? One sweet, fast-paced, fantastic feature film about a fox. Don’t make me spell it out.

In brief, Fantastic Mr Fox is about an aging, ambitious fox (played by the charismatic George Clooney) who has hopes of sharing a more affluent life with his wife (the softly spoken Meryl Streep) and ‘different’ son, Ash (sneeringly voiced by Jason Schwartzman).

Mr Fox is too sly for his own good, sneaking out each night with a possum friend to steal produce from three fairly repulsive men known as Boggis, Bunce and Bean. When the farmers cotton on, their contempt for such thievery is in no way concealed and a fully fledged war is declared on the fox and, collaterally, every other animal in the vicinity. Foxy gets everyone in trouble. The fun is in watching him try to get them out.

While the story is not complex (it is based on a children’s book after all), it is still layered with character arcs and subtle timed humour and comes together in a satisfying, but thankfully far from sappy manner.

It would be criminal not to mention the animation. This stop-motion work was just gorgeous, without being cutesy. Rippling fur, glassy wet eyes, incredibly detailed backgrounds and stunning action sequences left me smiling in quiet awe at the screen.

As with Where the Wild Things Are, parents will surely be carting their kids to the cinema in droves to see this one, hoping for an hour or two of peace. But these films are as much for kids as, say, The Simpsons. They’re superficially entertaining and there are visual funnies, but you can only appreciate just how clever and meaningful they really are when you’re a little older and wiser. Fantastic Mr Fox is not just for kids. It’s for anyone who ever enjoyed the wonderful creativity of Roald Dahl and is curious to see an amazing audiovisual representation of it.

While Anderson hasn’t previously produced anything comparable to this (though he did maintain some tradition by calling upon the voice boxes of perennial favourites, including Bill Murray and Schwartzman), he has done a beautiful job breathing life into this tale. The man is unstoppable and so was this film. It’s definitely worth a watch.

– Julia Cooke


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