Fantastic Mr Fox (PG)
What a year for kids’ movies! They are clearly spoilt for choice at the moment with Pixar’s latest, stupendous release Up, and now visionary director Wes Anderson’s first animated feature Fantastic Mr Fox. I recently said Up was one of the greatest Pixar movies ever and a delight for young and old folks alike but I am proud to say that Mr Fox has surpassed even Up’s epic greatness. As with all Wes Anderson films it is a subtle, beautiful story which has a gloriously woven, hilariously hip and quirky tale. Its old school charm and sensational wit is accessible for kids but is also a joy for the older audience. Anderson has taken an old classic and given it new depth and a typical groovy feel.
The film is based on the classic tale by Roald Dahl about a fox that mercilessly robs the three nearby farmers:
Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were none the less equally mean.
This becomes a problem for Boggis, Bunce and Bean so they decide to unite and kill Mr Fox but only succeed in shooting off his tail. Then a huge stand-off between the clever Mr Fox and his terrible neighbours begins. Anderson brings his unflinching wit and unique style to this classic tale and essentially turns it into another Wes Anderson film, and there’s something fantastic about that isn’t there? He moulds little aspects of existentialism, wry humour and his own brand of eccentricity to make this one of the most beautiful films of the year.
George Clooney is at his charismatic best as Mr Fox and Meryl Streep puts in a very solid performance as Mrs Fox. Some of the Wes Anderson regulars are there also; Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman namingly. Bill Murray puts in a charming performance as Badger but Jason Schwartzman steals some of the limelight as Mr Fox’s hilarious son Ash. Even Anderson’s brother Eric Chase makes a nice little appearance as Fox’s nephew Kristofferson. It also features one of the best cameos of the year – Jarvis Cocker as Petey, one of the farmers’ singing right hand men who is ridiculed throughout for his poor song-writing. Anderson’s obsession with the dysfunctional family unit is fully realised once again in Mr Fox. The exchanges between Ash and Kristofferson are classic Anderson moments that are on a par with The Royal Tenenbaums
The stop-motion animated look of the film is just so brilliantly done and in this age of 3-D flashy kids’ films it really sets it apart from everything else. I feel that the use of stop-motion gives the film a lot of its charm. Because the characters look brilliant and the fact they’re actually there really lets you connect with them and enjoy the more zany aspects of the film. Many of the visual gags rely on the old school look of the film that would so easily fall flat in a film like Up. I have heard people express doubts about the look of the film (some even described it as ‘weird’) but when you’re actually in the cinema and see it on the big screen you’ll find straight away that the stop-motion works perfectly.
Another great aspect of Mr Fox is Anderson’s little tangents in the story and his own kind of Americanised brand of setting and style. Mr Fox himself is actually a newspaper columnist and Badger is a lawyer (and demolitions expert on the side). They all live in a very human, suburban and civilised life. When the farmers try and catch Mr Fox they destroy most of this the gang realise, in Wes Anderson’s typical existentialist manner, that they are ‘wild animals’. This new found faith in their animal abilities drives them to take the fight to the farmers and steal everything they can! One beautiful scene at the end epitomises this search for self and soul in the film – I won’t spoil it for you.
Mr Fox is a gloriously hip, funny and charming film and a huge success for Wes Anderson. His work thus far has been almost flawless and his quirky, unique style of film-making should really take off now as this is his first big feature. I would highly recommend this to everyone as it stands next to Up as one of the best films of the year.