The Fantastic Mr. Fox is an adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's book of the same name, co-written and directed by Wes Anderson. It employs stop-motion animation, which creates a visual look that is flawed but very charming, largely because of its flaws. The film follows Mr. Fox and his family as they try to eek out a living and the troubles they face along the way.
The film seems to follow the book pretty faithfully but tacks on about 45 extra minutes of story, due to the book being rather short. It also fleshes out a bigger background to Mr. Fox himself, all of which helps the movie . Despite the animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox is not necessarily a children's movie. It's not that it's inappropriate for kids - it's not - but they won't appreciate it nearly as much as adults. They'll probably enjoy it, but I don't feel right lumping it into the category of kid's movies that can also be enjoyed by adults. I think it's the other way around.
The greatest thing about the movie is how well Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach blur the line between human and animal. For about 90% of the movie, it could be a typical drama/comedy with live action actors playing normal people and there's even a slight chance that, on some subconscious level, you might even forget you're watching stop-motion animals. But every now and then one of the characters does something distinctly animal-like and you're caught off guard. These are the moments that had me laughing the loudest. Watching Mr. Fox take his wife by the hand, tell her wholeheartedly that he wants a better house for them before he dies, and then instantly and violently wolf down his breakfast was hysterical.
George Clooney fits the role of Mr. Fox so well that you'd swear he was actually part fox were it not scientifically impossible. The entire cast is amazing, with Jason Schwartzman, the always amazing Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and other grade-A talent filling out their roles nicely. Dafoe is especially great as a sly, untrustworthy rat. That may sound like an insult, but it's not intended to be.
Before Mr. Fox became a newspaper man, as he puts it, he was a simple chicken thief and it's a life he can't quite put behind him. We see plenty of this in action in the movie. While we're never directly shown the act of chicken killing, we hear it happening and we see the cloud of feathers that result from it. Although the act itself is horrific, it's done in a way that's humorous and will probably bring a smile to your face. It doesn't feel violent or even harmful. It feels innocent and fun, but I don't think it's anything sadistic on Anderson's part. One of the funniest scenes involves Kylie the Opossum trying to kill a chicken and having considerable trouble with his teeth. These are the sort of wonderfully surreal moments that make up the movie.
The visuals are in direct competition with the dialogue as the best aspect of the movie, but in truth, they compliment each other. It's beautiful to look at. The archaic technology of stop-motion animation may have looked jarring in the previews, or at the very least felt gimmicky, but when you see it in its entirety you'll come to love it. This movie could have been done in a variety of styles and it still would've been good, but it wouldn't have been as good. It would've been an entirely different experience and I wouldn't have been nearly as enthusiastic about it.
There isn't a whole lot to say. It's easy to explain why a film doesn't work but considerably harder to explain why one does. Simply put, Fantastic Mr. Fox lives up to its name.
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