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Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Or: Wes Anderson Strikes Again… And This Time He’s Animated?
Lately I’ve noticed a trend with movies that, at first glance, seem to appeal to kids, but upon closer inspection, aren’t your typical “kids movie” fare. Starting as early as Pan’s Labyrinth, this trend can be seen as recently as Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. Fantastic Mr. Fox, from acclaimed director Wes Anderson is another one of these films.
The film, based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl (though to what extent, I’m not sure) tells the story of one Mr. Fox (George Clooney), as he moves, along with his family, into a new tree, that just happens to be situated next to Boggis, Bunce and Bean, the three meanest farmers in the neighborhood.
Feeling unaccomplished with his life, and wishing for the days of his youth spent as a professional poultry stealer, Mr. Fox plans one last major heist, despite the wishes of his wife (Meryl Streep), to steal the poultry from each of the respective farmers’ farms.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fox’s nephew, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), is visiting his uncle’s family, and Mr. Fox’s son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) must deal with the attention that Kristofferson receives when it is discovered that he is much better than Ash in pretty much every field.
Right around the time that this feud is coming to a head, the farmers attempt to ambush Mr. Fox, and shoot him dead. When this fails, they spend the rest of the movie digging up the hill that his tree sits on, trying to get to him. This eventually forces the Fox family and their neighbors deep underground, and its up to Mr. Fox to come up with a plan to get all of them out of it.
While the story pretty much goes where you expect from there, with Mr. Fox eventually learning to take responsibility for his actions, and Ash and Kristofferson eventually forming a close friendship, the ending itself is not quite as ideal as you’d imagine.
Like I said before, the film presents itself as a rather child friendly flick (there were at least 7 children in the theater when I saw it, one of whom would not stop kicking the back of my seat) it does carry some rather adult themes, and some of the humor is a bit more subtle than a child could be expected to understand. However, this doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t have its “silly” moments, where absurd humor takes over.
Its this mix between absurd “child-like” humor, and the more subtle themes presented that seem to make it hard to classify Fantastic Mr. Fox as a “children’s movie,” though it seems to want to be one. Unlike a film like Pan’s Labyrinth, this movie is most definitely appropriate for children, though it seems like there are large segments, especially towards the end, where they could get bored with it.
In contrast, however, the first 20 or so minutes of the film move by very fast, feeling more like it was meant as an episode of some TV show, rather than a full 90 minute movie. The back-and-forth between Mr. Fox’s story and Ash’s story does eventually reach a point where they become intertwined, though, so it all pays off.
Wes Anderson’s influence can definitely be felt throughout the whole film, his trademark dry humor persisting throughout. For those who have enjoyed his past features, this is a good thing. For those who aren’t big fans of Anderson’s previous films, there isn’t much here that will change your mind on the matter.
Overall, though, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a terrific film, with brilliant animation that you don’t see much of anymore, a terrific story, and a great sense of humor. If you’ve got a free day, and some money to spend, there are definitely worse things you could do, even if the film can’t quite decide whether it’s a children’s film or not.
Ratings for Fantastic Mr. Fox
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