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Fantastic Mr. Fox: A Happy Dig into A Fox’s Hole
This is a happy, unexpected fun ride from director Wes Anderson, the man behind Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Aquatic life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Quirky, funny and delightfully artistic, Anderson presents a children’s story for adults as well, using stop-motion and inexpensive technology.
Based on the classic novel by Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox follows the story of Mr Fox, an elegant, urban fox, played by the fantastic Clooney, who settles down after a youth spent on bird snatching to tame his wild side while looking after his wife (Streep), and raising his son Ash (Schwartzman). Mr Fox longs for adventure and goes looking for one by raiding the three farms close to his tree house. The owners of these farms go after Fox and his clan. What follows is a thrilling, wonderfully cinematic, low-tech adventure.
Throughout the film your eye wanders, not only in fox holes and sewage, but well crafted scenes with surprising attention to detail and new outlooks on art direction in animation and moving and humorous dialogue seems to present a whole new undertone to the picture. Anderson is a master of turning his cast inward toward their silliest most self-absorbed attitudes as possible. The Royal Tenenbaums is a great example, yet with Fantastic Mr. Fox he managed to get compassionate voice performances from a heavyweight cast.
While it is hard to classify Anderson ’s work, the 41-year-old director returns to his family theme, self-centred, witty and charming Fox seems to be an Anderson fit. And have we mentioned the cool soundtrack yet? It sets the tone for the family adventure.
However, how much the story served Anderson’s peculiar vision of the children’s tale and allowed him to use imagination and personality, it couldn’t have been made better with higher tech or a big budget, Pixary effects, proving that what matters is how individually delightful a family survival story can be.
They would try anything as if they had no fear of failure. They weren’t afraid of screwing up because the process and the act of creation were the important parts; if the product ended up sucking it was no big deal because they’d already be at work on the next piece. At least that’s the vibe that the documentary gives off. It also helps that the modern day, grown-up No Wavers seem every bit as cool as they did back then.
The actors play their parts dead-pan and watching those serious faces cursing at each other and arguing in over-the-top English accents while clad in medieval costumes somehow doesn’t lose its novelty. You get the feeling that Your Highness was an experiment in seeing just how much the filmmaker could get away with.
In addition to this, McBride’s character Thadeous is a hopeless sexist but his ignorance is presented in such a way that keeps the film light and funny as opposed to hideously offensive.
Acting-wise, some of the best parts of the film take place between Franco and McBride. While the main cast do a good job, the two brothers were given the most to work with seeing as how the film, at its core, is about their fractious relationship. The interaction between Franco’s over achieving, perfect, heroic Fabious and McBride’s immature, lazy, weed-smoking Thadeous provides the film’s heart.
However, Theroux’s villainous warlock Leezar steals the show. From his Blade Runner-inspired hairstyle to his eyeliner and awful teeth, he oozes this combination of smarminess, cockiness, self-entitlement and delusions of grandeur, making for a magnetic and highly entertaining villain.
This is an enjoyable film, but this reviewer found the memories of it upon finishing rather hazy, which is quite a feat considering the amount of weird stuff that takes place and considering just how beautifully shot the film is. The costumes are gorgeous, the stunts and sword fights are really well done and the special effects are rather impressive. Individually, there are a lot of things to like about the film but in the end, they just don’t all add up.