An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers' retaliation.
Wes Anderson is back with a loose adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic; Fantastic Mr Fox. Although the first animated feature from Anderson, Fantastic Mr Fox employs a decidedly Anderson aesthetic. It uses a style he’s been honing on films such as Rushmore, The Royal Tenebaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and features his hallmark of sibling rivalry and flawed paternal figures which we’ve seen throughout his work.
The film is more than a simple adaption of the much-loved story. It is a wholesale re-imagining of Dahl’s work. Extra plot is added in, especially at the beginning to pad out Dahl’s relatively short book. Die hard Dahl fans might be offended but the success of Fantastic Mr Fox is the way it complements and builds on the original story, making it a film very much of the noughties. Sushi bars, helicopters, live news reporting were absent in the classic tale, but Anderson pulls off something great by adding in these modern elements without losing the heart of the story.
The film employs stop-motion photography to bring the characters to life, an unusual technique that was previously thought out of fashion. However, it is used to tremendous effect and is critical to the narrative adding crucial comic timing and plenty of visual gags. The film is gorgeous to look at and the sets include such exquisite detail that it would probably take several viewings to notice them all.
Superb music queues are another trademark of Anderson’s films and the same is true for Fantastic Mr Fox. Jarvis Cocker plays Petey, a character without much of an arc apart from a star turn with a song played on a bango which he recorded for the film. The song along with his surreally realistic model makes this one of the highlights of the film.
George Clooney plays Mr Fox and somehow manages to pull-off a recognisably Clooney performance, despite the fact he bares no resemblance to the talking fox and his voice is the only Clooney element on screen. He is brilliant though; adding warmth and humour to a conflicted and mischievousness soul. Bill Murray shines as the Badger-come-lawyer but perhaps the stand-out performance comes from Eric Anderson playing the wonderfully named Kristofferson. Eric (brother of Wes) is not a professional actor, making this even more of an achievement.
Although rarely going for belly laughs, Fantastic Mr Fox is a very funny film. The humour is considerably adult however placing it in a slightly strange category. Although absolutely suitable for children, Fantastic Mr Fox will probably be a bigger hit with grown-up audiences. All swear words are replaced with the word ‘cuss’ to great effect as although expletives are used in what is ostensibly adult dialogue, it will be non-offensive to the ear of children.
Fantastic Mr Fox is a warm-hearted, visually striking film that although will appeal primarily to adults, will hopefully also be a success with younger audiences too. It is a bold choice for the Opening Gala for this year’s London Film Festival, but early critical reaction seems strong. Wes Anderson has proved himself once again to be one of the most creative directors working in the film industry today and Fantastic Mr Fox is a stand-out addition to his already impressive list of credits.