Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review - The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Based off the classic children's tale by Ronald Dahl "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" tells the story of the Fox family. Mr. Fox has always had a hankering for thievery and decides to create a master plan entailing him and other animals stealing food from the 3 evil farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. After the farmers set out to get rid of Mr. Fox, the woodland creatures are left to devise a plan to outsmart the three equally mean farmers.

When I first heard Wes Anderson was directing a stop-motion animated adaptation of Ronald Dahl's original tale I became enamored with the concept. Anderson is one of my favorite working directors, one who has a lock on telling fabulous stories of family dynamics. While Anderson's work on "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is a step away from his traditional medium, is yet another fantastic family dynamic film without a doubt.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is heartwarming, hysterical and absolutely enchanting from beginning to end. Truthfully, I never expected to see the same level of character development here in 'Mr. Fox' that I have from Wes Anderson in the past. He surprised me by once again creating a wide assortment of characters to enjoy on a variety of different levels. Wes Anderson brings to life an absorbing cast of characters that will both, pull at your heart strings and provide genuine laughter. Each of the characters are well developed, well animated and well voiced to make "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" a thoroughly captivating event.

The animation in "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is definitely a step away from the norm right now, but would you expect anything different from Wes Anderson? That said, I found the stop-motion animation to be instantly striking. I grew up with stop-motion and seeing it brought back to life here was a treat. The animation itself is a bit jagged in moments, however the rough look only seemed to match director Wes Anderson's typical brand of filmmaking perfectly. The attention to detail throughout the 87 minute film is furthermore miraculous. I was captivated by the fur and facial expressions on the Fox family and other characters. All of the emotions that comes out of these little puppets is brilliant.

One aspect to the film that instantly makes "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" a classic is the talented voice cast. Wes Anderson used real locations for all of the voice work in the film instead of recording in a sound booth and the result is flawless. Jason Schwartzman easily steals the film in his performance of Mr. Fox's son, Ash. While Schwartzman is electric as Ash, George Clooney's performance as Mr. Fox is nothing to balk at. Clooney carries the film in the title role, dripping of charm as he schemes his way trying to avoid the three mean farmers. Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Chase Anderson, Michael Gambon, Owen Wilson and Willem Dafoe all add an amazing energy to the film that is sure to have you involved in each of their characters as the film plays out.

The stop-motion animated film moves at a great speed and is enjoyable for the whole family. The dialogue is simple enough for younger audiences to follow and get a few laughs, while involved enough that parents and older audiences will remain engrossed as well. As for the dialogue, Wes Anderson has done it again by creating a script that has numerous lines of side-splitting dialogue. I loved the way Anderson was able to use adult tones or language while still making them seem geared for a PG audience. A perfect example of this, is the use of the word "cuss" throughout "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Every time it is used in the comedy, "cuss" would stir a few laughs from the audience. The film isn't just all laughs and has some very serious overtones that are prevalent in Anderson's films. For one, the father/son relationship between Mr. Fox and Ash. Mr. Anderson does a phenomenal job of fleshing out a theme that he has covered in most of his previous films.

Lastly, I cannot recommend "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" enough. It is an instant classic and for lack of a better word, fantastic. I fell in love with each of the characters brought to life in the quirky Wes Anderson animated film and will watch it again and again. It is a perfect film for the holiday season to see with family, one that both adults and children will truly enjoy.