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Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

April 22, 2010

8/10 Wild Animals

So nice to have you back, Wes. You were missed.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is about one smooth fox in a tweed jacket who ditches his former life as a chicken bandit to settle down in a nice little oak tree for a quiet, yet unspectacular life with his wife and kid. Lo and behold, their neighbors across the way happen to be the three meanest farmers in town, so Foxy here relapses and starts stealing chickens from them behind his wife’s back. As you can imagine, the farmers don’t take too kindly to this and the task of killing Mr. Fox quickly gets bumped to the top of their priority list.

And so begins this stop-motion war of man vs. animals-who-all-dress-like-Wes-Anderson.

Can’t say I was all to excited for this movie after Wes’ last two crushing letdowns – The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited – and it probably didn’t help that Up set the bar for animated movies pretty early on last year either. But enough about the last eight years and who cares if it’s animated, if this is the best darn thing he’s done since The Royal Tenenbaum‘s, I’ll take it!

And the strange thing is that this is exactly what you’d expect from an animated movie by Wes Anderson. It’s got all his signature shots, a totally awesome classic rock soundtrack and a hilariously deadpan script that’s delivered by a talented cast of regulars. If you closed your eyes, you probably wouldn’t even think it was animated, but that’s a stupid thing to do anyway.

The thing that’s great about the script is that while the dialogue is more catered to an adult sense of humor, it’s filled with a ton of great running gags that had me howling right along with my 7-year-old brother. So many little things like saying “cuss” instead of swearing (e.g.: “clustercuss”) are awesome little additions that make the whole thing that much more endearing, likable and accessible regardless of age gap. Man, Wes can be a really funny dude when he puts his mind to it and not a whole lot of people have that distinct comedic timing like he does. Good to see that back in action.

And it’s not often where the voice actors in animated movies really fit with the characters they’re playing, but the casting in this instance was just out of sight. Clooney was the perfect choice to play Mr. Fox, Michael Gambon was the perfect choice to play Bean – the meanest farmer of the bunch, no relation to Mr. Bean – and then you’ve got about a dozen other A-listers voicing even the most minor of characters to top it all off. The characters are all wonderful to begin with but the cast really added a lot to that and I had a freakin’ blast figuring out who was voicing who along the way.

And Bill Murray plays a badger lawyer. Awesome.

But the real stars of the show here are the animators. I love it when movies take a step back to go forward like this instead going for 3-D or jumping on the computer animation bandwagon like the rest of ’em. It’s impossible to ignore the painstakingly detailed efforts that went into making this and it’s amazing how endlessly entertaining it is to watch. Not only is it just beautiful to take in and feels totally new while being totally retro, there are loads of scenes that had me scratching my head wondering how they pulled it all off.

I was hoping to like Fantastic Mr. Fox and I’m so darn glad that it ended up being a borderline 9 that had me cracking up and smiling like crazy right on through. I’ve never read the book by Roald Dahl, and I’m going out on a limb here and assuming that Wes took a couple liberties in fleshing the story out (thankfully not to the same degree as Where the Wild Things Are), but there’s a lot of heart to go around here, it’s Wes doing what we does best and I’d love to see it again.

I’m tellin’ ya, these animated movies are on a roll right now.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 4:17 am

    Nice review, and I totally agree. I read (and listened to the audio tape of) this book throughout my childhood and yes, Anderson has taken a few liberties story and script-wise, but he’s stayed true to the general story and spirit of Dahl’s work. Ace film.

    • April 22, 2010 11:24 am

      Thanks, man. Gotta get around to the book one of these days, great stuff regardless though. Thanks for visiting and your photography kicks ass.

  2. April 22, 2010 7:09 am

    This was a cute and sweet movie, just not one of his best., I think the fact that the film was a little more adult, even though it was centered to kids. Its still a good movie, just nothing I was expecting. The screenplay was written with inspiration, but not enough in my opinion. Nice Review!

  3. filmnerd permalink
    April 22, 2010 7:16 am

    This was one of my favorites in the past year; a shame it did so poorly at the box office. And yes, it took quite a few liberties with the Roald Dahl book, but it kept that wonderfully rascally spirit.


    • April 22, 2010 11:25 am

      “Rascally!” That was the one word i was looking for to describe Fox but I couldn’t get it. Well done and glad you liked it too. Good stuff.

  4. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    April 22, 2010 8:07 am

    despite it faltering a little around the 3rd quarter of the movie, i still liked this one quite a bit. the actors definitely had a lot to do with the success of it.

    also, i didn’t think Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited were crushing letdowns at all. i liked them a lot. in fact, even though i like it alright too, the Royal Tenenbaums remains my least favorite Wes Anderson movie. *gasp!* yeah, i said it. 🙂

    • April 22, 2010 8:41 am

      Holy smokes, we’re on total different sides of the Wes Anderson compass here. need to give those two another watch, but royal tenenbaums is still his best by a longshot imho.

      • nothatwasacompliment permalink
        April 23, 2010 8:11 am

        i think my order of favorite to least favorite would be:

        -bottle rocket
        -life aquatic
        -fantastic mr. fox

        again, it’s not that i dislike tenenbaums, i just like the others more. and as for life aquatic, i didn’t like it too much the first time i saw it, but the next time i watched it, i kind of loved it.

      • April 23, 2010 8:40 am

        i’ll admit that i liked life aquatic more the second time, but it still felt like tenenbaums on a boat to me. damn, now i really need to see bottle rocket again.

  5. April 22, 2010 9:47 am

    Bottle Rocket
    Fantastic Mr. Fox

    • April 22, 2010 9:53 am

      Good man. I think I’d put Aquatic above Darjeeling and I need to see Bottle Rocket again (even though it’s great), but that’s about my list. You da man.

  6. Darren permalink
    April 22, 2010 1:06 pm

    My favourite moment is when Fox asks Badger, his lawyer, for his special skill. “Demolitions Expert!” Because wouldn’t we all love that specialty and a chance to use it, underneath our suits and ties? There’s a part of us which always loves stuff like that.

  7. April 25, 2010 11:59 am

    I totally agree. It’s such a great film, and one I enjoyed with my younger siblings.

    Animation is indeed doing great things and I hope the trend continues.

  8. Sarah permalink
    May 1, 2010 7:09 pm

    I didn’t know that it was one man behind all of those movies that I love watching. Wes Anderson. Huh. I’m glad I finally had that pointed out to me.

    Uhhh, anyways, are you going to do a review of the others by him as well?

    • May 1, 2010 7:13 pm

      Absolutely, have the Tenenbaums DVD staring me in the face right this second. Reviewed Rushmore a while back, but need to give the other ones a refresher watch before I review them

  9. May 4, 2010 5:29 pm

    Sorry to be late to the party, but all the film festival coverage I’m doing has me a little lax on reading everyone else’s work.

    Totally agree that this is one fabulous film – I really loved the organic look of it, the rhythm to the dialogue, and the way that it fits within Anderson’s canon of work. Speaking of which – sometimes, doesn’t deciding which Anderson film you like best feel akin to deciding which Beatles song you like best?

    Anyway, great post. If you were curious, you could go a-l-l-l-l-l-l the way back to my very first podcast episode and hear my review of it with Lady Hatter.

    • May 7, 2010 10:08 am

      Yeah, haven’t seen you around these parts in years. Great to have you back, homey.

      Will definitely give that podcast a listen and I gotta say that I’ve already got my Wes Anderson favorites list ranked and ready to go. So hard to top Tenenbaums.

  10. Branden permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:33 pm

    I have heard of the book. Never read it. The movie was a solid effort by Wes Anderson. I didn’t think that would like the stop motion animation, but works with his quirks.


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