Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

A Wes Anderson masterpiece of craftsmanship, direction and visual storytelling that is arguably still his finest work.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review #744

Dir. Wes Anderson
2009 | USA/UK | Animation/Adventure/Comedy | 87 mins | 1.85:1 | English & French
PG (passed clean) for action, smoking and slang humor

Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, William Dafoe
Plot: Mr. and Mrs. Fox live a happy home life with their eccentric son Ash and visiting nephew Kristofferson. That is until Mr. Fox slips into his sneaky, old ways and plots the greatest chicken heist the animal world has ever seen.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 6 May 2012
Spoilers: No

Fantastic Mr. Fox is easily the best animated feature of 2009. It should be rewarded with an Oscar nomination (and is every bit deserving of a win) even though Pixar’s Up (2009) could land the coveted statuette based on popular votes. 

Adapted from the beloved Roald Dahl children’s book of the same name, the film tells the story of Mr. Fox and his sneaky scheme to steal poultry, especially chicken, from three nearby farms run by three nasty, detestable humans with a collective mission: to kill Mr. Fox and his family.

Director Wes Anderson who is well-known for films such as Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) is one of the key American filmmakers of the 90s to revive the low-budget independent offbeat comedy. 

Even though much of his works remain underappreciated, Anderson has a loyal following claiming that he is one of the great filmmakers of our time. While that might be exaggerating it a fair bit, Fantastic Mr. Fox shows us why he is on course to being judged as such.

Fantastic Mr. Fox follows the stop-motion tradition of the ‘Wallace And Gromit’ films, and refutes the argument that brilliant animated films can only be made by Pixar. Anderson’s obsession with detail and his mastery of mise-en-scene also means that the film is far from ‘kiddish’; on the contrary, it can be seen as quality art. 

While children may enjoy the visuals and the odd dose of behavioral humor (e.g. how the foxes consume their meal or how they dig themselves out of trouble), parents who are forced to tag along are far more likely to appreciate the authenticity of the character and set models used, and the themes of ‘family’, ‘responsibility’, and ‘collectivism’ which reverberate with quiet resonance throughout the film.

“You should probably put your bandit hat on now. Personally, I- I don’t have one, but I modified this tube sock.”

There is some superb voice work on show here with George Clooney as Mr. Fox and Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox. Supporting voice talents include stars Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Gambon, William Dafoe, and Owen Wilson. 

An ‘ethnic’ influence is evident in one of the characters here whose obsession with yoga and its meditative properties recalls a certain ‘spiritual’ Schwartzman in The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Anderson’s previous film about three brothers on a bonding trip to India.

Fantastic Mr. Fox also explores the important theme of domesticity versus the wild. Mr. Fox has a lovely family and he dotes on them. In short, he lives a comfortable life in his big house under a tree.

But more often than not, he succumbs to his animalistic instinct by ‘hunting’ for food from the farms. He enjoys the temporal satisfaction of being a wild animal, or in this case, a sly, scheming fox. 

In a key scene, Mr. Fox has a fleeting encounter with a black wolf. Even though suppressed by a psychological fear of wolves, he admires from distance the dark beauty of the creature, its freedom to roam the lands, to hunt, and its fortune to avoid the tepidity that is domesticity.

An Anderson masterpiece of craftsmanship and direction, Fantastic Mr. Fox very much assures itself of a spot in my top ten films of 2009.

Grade: A+




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