Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Michael Gambon, Eric Anderson and Roman Coppola
After using animation in some of his earlier films, Wes Anderson created his first fully animated film with Fantastic Mr. Fox. The screenplay was co-written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, after the pair had previously worked on The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou together. While it is an animated film, and definitely aimed more at children, this is still a Wes Anderson film with all of his stylish flourishes and absurdist sense of humour.
Foxy Fox (George Clooney) and Felicity Fox (Meryl Streep) leave the life of stealing chickens behind to settle down and start a family after their cub, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), is born. Two human years (twelve fox years) pass and Foxy is bored with domestic life. He wants to live on the edge again and plans to steal chickens from three local farmers. Once his heists are complete, the farmers want revenge and start an all-out war with the Fox family.
The stop-motion animation is simply beautiful. Ever scene is hand-crafted and you can feel the love that went into creating every character and miniature set. The actual animation is smooth and fluid and you’ll be forgiven for believing it is fully computer animation. The new Criterion Collection edition also has some great behind-the-scenes featurettes that show how it was created, they’re really interesting and well worth checking out.
All of Wes Anderson’s usual flourishes are here, from the deliberate camera work, use of bold colours, miniatures, and comedy. It translates so well into animated form, something he had dabbled with before Mr. Fox in films such as Steve Zissou. Most of Anderson’s films have a storybook feel to it and it’s no wonder that his style works so well in stop-motion.
There are a few of Anderson’s usual cast here, including Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and obviously Bill Murray. Joining them are George Clooney and Meryl Streep, who are just as great as usual. George Clooney is the perfect choice for the charming and untrustworthy Foxy Fox. Jason Schwartzman is also great as Ash, who is struggling to live up to his father’s legacy. He doesn’t fit in and is lashing out.
There are moments where the film does get a little dark and scary for a children’s film. It’s nothing extreme, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. The uncanny stop-motion adds to the fear as well. At the same time Fantastic Mr. Fox is a laugh out loud film, from puns, visual jokes and just strange situations that get many loud laughs. There’s a strange back and forth between Foxy and the farmers, where they send each other note using cut out letters from magazines. Since they know who the notes are from, they both question why the other one does it.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great film for everyone, not just children or die-hard Wes Anderson fans. The film is one of Anderson’s best, filled with great comedy, stunning animation, a stellar cast, and a charming story that you’ll fall in love with whether you’re aged five or ninety-five.
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