Today I watched Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Based on the Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name, the film follows the titular Fox, played by George Clooney. He is forced to leave his life of robbing farmers behind when he and his wife, Mrs. Fox, reveals that she is pregnant. But after years of domestic life, in which Mr. Fox becomes a writer for a newspaper, he is called back into the robbery game, it’s just in his nature. Meanwhile his son Ash is having trouble trying to fit in which is only exacerbated when his cousin Kristofferson has to come live with them. Kristofferson is everything Ash wants to be and it drives him mad being upstaged by him, even though he isn’t trying. All the plots come together when the farmers that Mr. Fox has been robbing decide to gang together and kill him, which leads to an escalating life or death conflict that threatens to tear Mr. Fox’s community apart.
Wes Anderson’s typical approach to mature subject matter makes him an interesting choice for a Roald Dahl adaptation, both deal with very adult content in childlike ways but they are both very different in their approach. So with that in mind this film definitely is more Anderson than Dahl, instead of Dahl’s comic grimness it has Anderson’s sly maturity and adult characters. Likewise it is pure Anderson in terms of visuals, further purified by the fantastic stop motion animation. Stop motion seems fit so naturally into Anderson’s style that it makes his live action work seem restricted in comparison.
Again Anderson backs up his incredible visual acumen with a star studded cast headed by George Clooney and Helen Mirren, backed up by Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murray, and Willem Dafoe. It’s maturity makes it stand out even among the much vaunted works of Pixar in the arena of modern family films. This might make it unapproachable to some younger audiences, but I think if they can stick through the more drawn out opening act, they would enjoy the manic payoff of the finale. It offers a visual feast with plenty of understated humour and character driven drama making this a truly fine family film. 5/5