Fantastic Mr. Fox Review
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Once upon a time, animated films were just for kids. They were bright and colorful fairy tales, liberally seasoned with fart jokes. Lately, though, all that has changed. Animated films have grown up. They’ve become smarter and more artistic—and, occasionally, a whole lot scarier. Sometimes, they even boast unexpected directors—like quirky indie darling Wes Anderson, who makes his animation debut with a stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Several fox years ago, when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) discovered that his wife (Meryl Streep) was pregnant with their first pup, he agreed to give up his dangerous career as a bird thief. Now a successful journalist, Mr. Fox decides that it’s time to move his family out of their dark, dingy hole in the ground and into something more luxurious—like a nice, airy tree.

  
 
There’s just one problem with the Foxes’ new home—or, more accurately, three problems: the neighbors. The tree is dangerously close to the farms of mean and nasty old Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon). Not only are they mean and nasty, but their farms are also very tempting to Mr. Fox, who feels compelled to do one last job—just to put the farmers in their place.

Mr. Fox convinces his super, Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), and his athletic nephew, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), to break into the neighboring farms, but the farmers aren’t about to go down without a fight—so they join together to get their revenge.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is quirky and whimsical in a way that only a Wes Anderson movie can be, taking the work of an already eccentric author and giving it an oddly enjoyable spin. As is usually the case with Anderson’s live-action films, the writing is imaginative and unexpected, with a clever sense of humor and a cast characters who are just a bit, well…different. He even adds plenty of his trademark dysfunctional family drama to the mix, courtesy of the Foxes’ adolescent son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), and his ongoing competition with his too-perfect cousin, Kristofferson.

As for the animation, the stop-motion has a decidedly old-school feel. In fact, compared to other recent animated films—with their life-like graphics and stunning 3D effects—it seems absolutely antiquated. But that old-fashioned feel only adds to the film’s funky retro charm. It’s a simple story, told in a simple style—but don’t let that fool you into assuming that it’s dry and dull. Mr. Fox may not be fast-paced or flashy, but its wicked wit is more than enough to keep audiences (especially the grown-up ones) entertained.

Although it’s probably still a bit too artsy (and the cleverly-veiled language still a bit too adult) for younger viewers, Fantastic Mr. Fox would make the perfect introduction to independent film—because it takes a classic kids’ story and gives it a fun new (old-school) twist. So if your kids have outgrown the same old fluffy family fare, be sure to treat them to this foxy fantasy.


Blu-ray Review:
If, after watching Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, you aren’t totally blown away by the detailed stop-motion animation, take a few minutes to look through the special features menu on the three-disc Blu-ray release (which also includes a DVD and digital copy of the film, by the way), and you’re sure to get a whole new appreciation for the work that went into making the film.

Making Mr. Fox Fantastic is an extensive making-of feature, which is divided into six parts (for a total runtime of about 45 minutes). The feature explores every step of the process—from writing the screenplay to the challenges of the stop-motion animation. Here, you’ll learn all about Anderson’s fantastic attention to detail—even designing Mr. Fox’s furniture to look like that in author Roald Dahl’s home in England. You’ll see the videos that Anderson made, acting out each role. And you’ll learn about the entire puppet-making process. My favorite part, though, is the one on the cast—which shows George Clooney running around a farm and rolling around in the grass while recording his voice track.

The features menu also includes a short introduction to Whack-Bat (mostly taken from the movie), a short feature on Roald Dahl (including interviews with his widow), and the theatrical trailer.

After you watch the movie, I definitely recommend taking a look at the extras—even if you only have time to skim through them. It’s an eye-opening experience—and, after seeing all that went into making the film, you’ll appreciate it even more.

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