— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Wes Anderson has made a name for himself by directing films such as “The Darjeeling Unlimited” and “Bottle Rocket.” His brand of humor for the older demographic is his “whistle with the clicking noise,” but he plans to expand his horizons with “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and it is bound to introduce his name to a much young audience. While maintaining his signature humor, it is coated with beautiful visuals and a plot that is both simple but also complex at the same time; “Why am I a fox?,” questions the sly Mr. Fox, setting the theme of identity for the film. Though it’s tucked away nicely, there is a bit of social commentary for the adults to explore.
Based on the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” follows the story of Mr. Fox, who steals food from three farmers named Boggis, Bunce, and Bean in order to feed his family, but during one of his raids both he and his accomplish (and wife) Mrs. Fox, who is voiced by Meryl Streep, are captured. During the ordeal, Mr. Fox finds out his wife is pregnant and thus promises to change his thieving ways, luckily they escape by doing “the thing foxes do best … dig!” Fast-forward a couple years and Mr. and Mrs. Fox move to an expensive tree (against a Badger with a law-degree’s advice).
Though Mr. Fox has gotten a job writing columns that “nobody reads,” he secretly gets back into the looting business, which erupts into an all-out war against the cunning fox and the three farmers determined to kill him.
Scenes are quick and to the point, much like Mr. Fox himself. This allows them to be endlessly funny and entertaining without any disruptions that might have occurred with a longer running time. The entire film is only 87 minutes long, but it leaves you thoroughly satisfied.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” can easily be compared with the recent animated release “Mary and Max,” both of them showcase beautiful visuals matched with sharp writing, but whereas “Mary and Max” featured a mostly black-and-white color scheme, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a more colorful and more playful ordeal. Stop-motion animations have been popular throughout the years, but this film is no doubt one of the best to come out of using the technique.
Another subject of praise is how well the characters have been adapted for the big-screen and how masterfully they are voice-acted. Perhaps reflecting on his personality, George Clooney is fit for the role of Mr. Fox. Jason Schwartzman and Meryl Streep also fit their roles as the son and Mrs. Fox. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and even Wes Anderson himself, also voice minor characters, but that does not mean that they are any less delightful.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” does what it sets out to do and it does so perfectly. It is an excellent adaptation of a popular children’s tale that will appeal to audiences of all ages because it’s both emotionally and visually beautiful. It runs at a brisk pace, but it is a film that you will want to see more than once. It is easily one of Wes Anderson’s best works.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” has been released for a limited amount of theaters on Friday, but it plans to expand to theaters everywhere on Nov. 25. It is rated PG for action, smoking and slang humor.