Friday, December 1, 2017

#2,472. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - The Films of Wes Anderson

Directed By: Wes Anderson

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray

Tag line: "His life is fantastic... his wife is fantastic... his neighbors, not so fantastic"

Trivia: Altogether, 535 puppets were made for the film (Mr. Fox had 17 different styles alone)

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightful rarity; a kid-friendly animated adventure unlike any movie director Wes Anderson made before that still bears the unmistakable markings of a Wes Anderson film.

Upon hearing that his beloved wife (voiced by Meryl Streep) is pregnant, Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a notorious chicken thief, vows to find a new line of work.

Several years pass. Mr. Fox is now a well-respected (if somewhat obscure) newspaper columnist, and his young son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is proving to be a handful (a bit odd, Ash seldom does what he’s told). When informed that his nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) will be coming to stay with them for a while, Mr. Fox decides to move his family into a bigger, above-ground home, one that overlooks three prestigious poultry farms owned and operated by Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon).

Itching to return to a life of crime, Mr. Fox teams up with handyman Kylie the Possum (Wallace Wolodarsky) and raids the trio of farms adjacent to his property. But Boggis, Bunce, and especially Bean are not to be trifled with, and the three join forces to rid themselves of a very pesky fox.

Based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a movie the entire family can enjoy, with a colorful lead character (handled wonderfully by the always-reliable George Clooney) whose various adventures will have you laughing as you're poised on the edge of your seat. Along with being both funny and exciting, Fantastic Mr. Fox is also touching in its own way; the relationship between Mr. Fox and his son Ash offers up a few heartwarming moments.

In addition to its fine thematic elements, the stop-motion animation is superb, and there are scenes within the film that are truly unforgettable, the best of which features an underground feast that’s interrupted by a tidal wave of apple cider.

Yet as good a family entertainment as this movie is, what struck me while watching Fantastic Mr. Fox was how Wes Anderson’s signature style shined through in every scene. We recognize it in an early flashback, when the Foxes break into a Squab farm moments before Mrs. Fox announces her pregnancy. Following the two as they sneak around the farm, the scene has a familiar energy to it, fueled in part by Anderson’s choice of music ("Heroes and Villains" by the Beach Boys). We’ve seen stylized moments like this before in Bottle Rocket, RushmoreThe Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and we recognize the “Anderson touch” almost immediately.

In addition, many of the director’s regulars lend their voice to the movie, including Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray (as Badger, Mr. Fox’s accountant), Willem Dafoe (as a rat hired to guard Bean’s valuable supply of apple cider), and Michael Gambon. We’re even treated to one of Anderson’s patented montage sequences (narrated by Bill Murray), where we are introduced to the film’s three evil farmers.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a unique entry in Anderson’s filmography, but there is no mistaking that it is, indeed, a Wes Anderson picture.

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