“This story’s too predictable,” says Mrs. Fox. “Predictable? Really? Then, how does it end?” asks Mr. Fox. Mrs. Fox replies, “In the end, we all die. Unless you change.”
From Bottle Rocket through The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson has become one of America’s most famous auteurs over the last 20 years. With the exception of 2004’s disappointing The Life Aquatic, all of his films have been well-received by critics and gradually by audiences as well. It took several years for me to get a chance to see a Wes Anderson film on the big screen (I almost saw a preview screening of The Life Aquatic at the Museum of Modern Art and was initially disappointed when it sold out before I could get a ticket; I was later relieved when I saw the negative reviews). It was for Anderson’s sixth feature that I finally got to see one of his films on the big screen. I saw Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox on the big screen during its original theatrical run seven years ago, and it was an extremely entertaining film. This review of Fantastic Mr. Fox is my entry in the Wes Anderson Blogathon hosted by www.seanmunger.com.
2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox follows a family of anthropomorphic foxes as they, along with their anthropomorphic animal friends, try to outwit three farmers who are out to kill them for stealing from them. Anderson brought together a terrific voice cast that included George Clooney (as Mr. Fox), Meryl Streep (as Mrs. Felicity Fox), Jason Schwartzman (as Ash Fox), Bill Murray (as Clive Badger), Willem Dafoe (as Rat), Owen Wilson (as Coach Skip), Wallace Wolodarsky (as Kylie), Eric Anderson (as Kristofferson Silverfox), Michael Gambon (as Franklin Bean), Jarvis Cocker (as Petey), Karen Duffy (as Linda Otter), Robin Hurlstone (as Walter Boggis), Hugo Guinness (as Nathan Bunce), Helen McCrory (as Mrs. Bean), Brian Cox (as Daniel Peabody), Adrien Brody (as Rickity), Roman Coppola (as Nelson Squirrel), Mario Batali (as Mr. Rabbit), and Anderson himself (as Stan Weasel). Clooney and Streep have wonderful chemistry as husband and wife, and Schwartzman is hilarious as their often ignored son. Murray is also a welcome presence (as well as in any Anderson film).
The screenplay by Anderson and Noah Baumbach faithfully adapts and expands the original novel by Roald Dahl (the content of the novel makes up the film’s second act). Tristan Oliver’s cinematography uses a palette of autumn-related colors, while the stop-motion animation (shot at 12 frames per second rather than the standard 24) gives the film a look reminiscent of the Rankin/Bass TV holiday specials from the 1960s and 1970s. Nelson Lowry’s production design is just amazing (the farm and underground sets were my favorites). Anderson’s costume designs (which went uncredited) give each character an interesting look (Mr. Fox’s suit and Mrs. Fox’s yellow dress with apples were among my favorites). The editing by Ralph Foster and Stephen Perkins moves the film along at a great pace, and Alexandre Desplat delivers an eclectic, Oscar-nominated score dominated by country sounds (plucked strings, banjo, woodwinds, etc.). Anderson’s Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee Fantastic Mr. Fox is an excellent adaptation of the 1970 Dahl book that features fantastic voice work and standout stop-motion animation.