“We’re all different. Especially him. But there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?”
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion animated film written and directed by arthouse darling Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel), based on a book by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach), and packing an all-star cast including George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and many more. The writing is clever, the art direction is stellar, and the characters are charmingly quirky. It’s suitable for kids, but smart enough for adults, and accessible to just about everyone.
The plot follows the wily Mr. Fox as he steals from three local farmers, who serve as the movie’s antagonists. Mr. Fox’s son, Ash, serves as a deuteragonist, struggling with his own insecurities. Though they face different problems, both wrestle with who they are, who they should become, and the discrepancy between the two. Along the way, there are many adventures and misadventures—it’s actually kind of amazing how many subplots they fit into such a short film. The movie is not simple, but it feels simple, and the many strands come together into one cohesive whole that is masterfully executed.
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Though Fantastic Mr. Fox, as a Wes Anderson film, has excellent art direction, I think the characters are what truly shine here. Each character is loveable in their own way, from the brilliant but unruly Mr. Fox to the scrappy but tenacious Ash to the competent but mild-mannered Kristofferson, and even the hilariously hot-tempered villain Franklin Bean. I adored every character, even down to Wes Anderson’s voice cameo as the real estate agent weasel. The animal characters have wit and charm that most humans would find enviable.
Part of the allure of these characters is the sense of camaraderie you feel with them. Mr. Fox and his family are not entirely functional, but not entirely dysfunctional either, and seeing them interact brings out the misfit animal in each of us. When Mr. Fox finally accepts the wild part of himself (represented in an unexpected show of solidarity with a wolf), I found myself cheering a little bit. And this delightful misfit movie has a misfit ending to match that does not disappoint.
As I said above, this movie is suitable for children, but smart enough for adults, so there’s a very wide appeal. As with any Wes Anderson movie, the style and art direction are a large part of the experience, so if you don’t like Anderson’s style, that might hinder the experience a bit. But I still think there’s something here for just about everyone. If you ever have movie nights with younger viewers, this is a perfect movie to keep everyone happy. Check it out!
Nominations: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Animated Feature Film of the Year (Wes Anderson)
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Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: animated, comedy