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Theatrical Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

ByDarren Goodhart

Dec 6, 2009

Mr. Fox, out on a romp with his wife Mrs. Fox, decides to have some fun and go after some squab, only to find himself trapped and his wife pleading to him that if they survive this, they need to change their life, and by the way, she’s pregnant. Well, they do survive and two years later, they’ve changed their life, with Mr. Fox now being a columnist for the newspaper for the other wild animals and now a father with a young son named Ash. Mr. Fox though, isn’t happy with his situation, and thinks at this stage in his life he and his family shouldn’t be living in a hole, and so Mr. Fox decides to purchase a new home inside a tree that overlooks the collective farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean… and from there, he feels the need to resume his old ways… and of course hi-jinks ensue…

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the latest movie from the very talented Wes Anderson, using Roald Dahl’s original book as a springboard (I’m not familiar with the book, but there’s just too much stuff here that’s pure Wes Anderson to even begin for me to think that it was ever in the book). It’s an animated feature that’s pretty much unlike anything else that’s out there today and for two reasons: 1. It’s stop-motion animated, no CGI in sight and 2. It’s really way more for adults than it is for kids. If you’re familiar with Anderson’s other movies (he’s made Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited) then you already know that his movies have a pretty unique voice and look to them, and Fantastic Mr. Fox fits right in with the rest of his filmography (and for me having much in common with both The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic).

The animation here is actually some pretty sophisticated stuff, particularly with the character subtleties, though there’s also a little something that’s just a touch creepy about it as well (though I’m having a hard time putting my finger on just what is a little creepy about it- it just struck me that way). And though this is about anthropomorphized animals, they don’t let you forget that they are wild animals, with Mr. Fox coming off as urbane and witty one moment and the next moment viciously attacking his food.

But it is very entertaining, at least to me, and one of those movies that I expect for me might end up being like Being John Malkovich was for me- mildly amusing at the first viewing, but increasingly funnier the more I see it.

Lots of Anderson’s go-to guys are here in the voice cast, including Jason Schwartzmann, Bill Murray and even Owen Wilson in a walk-on role. George Clooney plays the part of Mr. Fox and he’s just as uber-confident as he should be, and Meryl Streep voices his wife, with a lot of quiet confidence.

I tend to think that your liking for this will probably hinge on whether you like Wes Anderson’s previous movies. I know some just won’t get it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, he’s just not your cup of tea. But those that are real fans of his work will probably just love this, and if not immediately be head over heels with it, then for sure having it grow further with them in later viewings. If you’re a parent looking to see if they should take their kids to see this though- well honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. I mean this isn’t a Pixar film by any means (and that’s not being derogatory to Pixar at all) and while not being a parent my own self, I found something just a little creepy to this (but still entertaining) and thus just don’t know how it would go over with a kid. But still, this is pretty unique stuff and if you’ve had any passing interest at all, I’d surely recommend seeing it at some point, if not in a theatre, then surely when it hits home video later…

Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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