Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
So from the first trailer I wanted to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. Stop motion animation isn’t a medium that most people attempt in a full-length film and one rendered with the strange, homespun detail that Mr. Fox has is a very rare find indeed. This is a great film from its story-telling to its art direction and if you haven’t seen it yet, here are some reasons why you should.
The pairing of Wes Anderson’s aesthetic and vision with Roald Dahl’s story is a beautiful match. They both have this odd, unblinking dryness in their storytelling that seems like it should just go together. In Anderson’s movies and Dahl’s stories, bizarre things happen but both men treat them with the same casualty as the mundane. Perfect example: the explanation of Wack Bat, a base-ball/cricket-esque game played by Fox’s son, Ash, and Fox’s nephew Kristofferson. The mayhem of the game is delivered with understated ease by their coach and of course Kristofferson, the novice, completely owns the game on his first try. It’s silly and serious in that well-pitched way that children relate to and adults laugh at in spite of themselves. At the same time, Anderson does add his signature style of character introspection to Dahl’s children story. It’s handled with a subtlety and surprising realism that doesn’t feel out of place in this “family film” but rather refreshing.
Then of course there is the animation and art direction. The best way I can describe it is this: The movie feels like that one really kitschy knick knack your grandmother insisted on displaying in the living room that you were hopelessly obsessed with as a kid, you know, like a stuffed mouse under glass. You know that thing. The movie feels like that. But, while making you feel cozy is great, the movie also delivers on gorgeous animation. The scene between Mr. and Mrs. Fox in front of the waterfall is breathtaking. There are images in the movie that just linger after you’ve seen it, from the montages of the farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean to the wide shot of the tree home of the Fox family. It’s wonderfully done and as a stop motion animated movie it’s not to be missed.
Finally I can’t write a review of this movie without pointing out that the voice work in it is amazing. George Clooney proves that even his voice is the most affable, charismatic thing on the face of the earth. Meryl Streep was a second choice for this film, which is unthinkable when you hear her delivery. Her Mrs. Fox has a strength and frailty that’s so well done and uncanny in an animated fox. Anderson’s usual line-up of actors brought their A-game to their roles, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman and also a great turn by Dumbizzle #2 Michael Gambon. A lot of the recording for the dialogue was done in the actual settings of the film, i.e. Clooney and Schwartzman in a barn or on a motorcycle. This highly unusual means of recording gets some really wonderful deliveries; making some already believable characters jump off the screen.
Those are my reasons as to why Fantastic Mr. Fox is a win. It’s a beautiful movie that, if you’ve got a sense of humor with an affinity for the absurd, you should really give yourself a night to enjoy.
- For Fantastic Mr. Fox: “The Force is strong with this one!”