Fantastic Mr Fox Movie Review

This is much more of a Wes Anderson film than the Roald Dahl classic on which it's based. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could cause problems with fans of the book. The central themes are still there, but this is essentially a quirky dysfunctional family romp.

Mr Fox (voiced by Clooney) has a pretty fantastic life as a newspaper columnist living in his den with his wife (Streep), surly teen son Ash (Schwartzman) and visiting nephew Kristofferson (Anderson). After Fox convinces his wife to move aboveground to a tree, he becomes tempted to go back to his bird-stealing ways.

And with his possum pal Kylie (Wolodarsky), he goes on a spree that enrages the local farmers, led by the furious Bean (Gambon), who vows revenge. But this puts the entire local animal population in danger.

By focussing on the offbeat family and extended animal community, Anderson shifts the story into his usual exploration of internal angst and interpersonal carnage. While Dahl's central tale about creatures outwitting humans is still there, this is much more a story about a man rediscovering who he really is, namely a wild animal. Fortunately this is explored with wit and energy, some hysterical dialog, terrific characters and absolutely gorgeous animation.

Visually, the film looks timeless, as the old-style stop-motion is deliberately jerky and goofy. This makes it that much more tactile. And the animators brilliantly bring the characters to life, complete with strong emotion and sharp personalities, energetically conveyed by the great vocal cast. And Anderson directs the action with his usual brand of straight-on camerawork, yellow-orange colour scheme and amusing little touches.

At the centre is the idea that a fox can't really be happy without a chicken in his teeth. Obviously, this idea resonates on a deeper level, but the film's essentially a snappy, lightweight comedy. Why Anderson decided to make the animals American even though the humans and the above-ground setting are firmly in Dahl's Britain is anyone's guess. So if the message is a little simplistic, at least the film shows astounding visual innovation. And it's a thoroughly engaging place to spend 90 minutes.


Fantastic Mr Fox Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 2009


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