Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Jason Schwartzman

Directed By: Wes Anderson

The animated movie is something I’ve always held dear to my heart. I grew up on the Disney classics with Pinocchio and The Sword in the Stone being my favorites. Like with everything else, these kinds of movies popularity comes and goes. After a dip in the 1970s through the early 1980s, Disney returned to prominence with the likes of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. After another brief drop off in interest, the computer animated movie took hold with PIXAR’s Toy Story and Dreamworks’ Shrek. This current upswing is happening full force today. One of the latest one releases is also one of the more unique animated films to date: Fantastic Mr. Fox.

As the movie begins, we see Mr and Mrs Fox (Clooney and Streep) raiding a farm for squabs. We can clearly see that Mr Fox enjoys the thrill of stealing and almost getting caught. Mrs Fox chooses this moment to drop a bomb saying that she’s pregnant and tells Mr Fox to retire from the bird stealing business. This is where Fox ends up: a bored newspaper columnist that longs for something more, including moving out of their fox hole into a tree close to three mega-farms. I think we can all see where this is heading. Wanting a return to a more exciting life, Fox plans to raid all three farms for his last great heist. Naturally, the heist doesn’t work how Fox intends and it’s up to Fox along with his friends to save the day against three farmers.

As the film moves along we encounter a ton of different characters. There’s the Foxes’ son Ash (Schwartzman), who’s a bit different and not quite like his father though wants to be; Mrs Fox’s nephew Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) who’s athletically gifted and mentally strong; Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) the dimwitted opossum that helps with the heist; Badger (Bill Murray) who is Fox’s attorney and friend; and Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) the leader of the three farmers and hunter extraordinaire. These characters are all different from one another and all have individual nuances.

As you may have noticed Fantastic Mr Fox isn’t very plot heavy. It is nothing we haven’t really seen before. An arrogant/insecure, restless man returns to his life of old and must face the consequences in doing so. Yes, it all goes awry. After all, everything the “too intelligent for his own good” Fox does never seems to work out as he plans. This includes the opening scene where he suspects a trap will do one thing and it does the opposite, trapping him and his wife in the process. However, it’s Fox’s resourcefulness and his learning to trust others that eventually saves the day.

It is interesting to note that Wes Anderson was rarely on set during filming. He directed the movie mostly via the internet. His lack of physical presence during the filmmaking process doesn’t stop the movie to be injected with the usual quirkiness we’ve come to expect in an Anderson film. It’s this quirkiness that makes the movie as humorous as it truly is. The stop-motion animation draws back to the old Christmas time specials like “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” This bring about a look we don’t see much anymore and it’s very nice to see. Also, the actors didn’t record their lines in a studio, but rather “on location;” which is to say that if a scene was outside, all the actors would record together in a forest setting. These two elements bring about a very organic feel.

All of the characters are engaging in their own little ways. They all stand alone from one another. Each have their own little ticks and ways of movement. There was an obvious attention to detail in the filming process. None of them are every completely still. They’re all doing something, even in the most subtle ways (like a dirty glance here and there, for example). The voice actors are all fun with Clooney leading the way. His Mr Fox definitely calls back to his Danny Ocean character. Streep is her usual great self, even in voice only. Schwartzman and Anderson arguably have the two highlight characters of the movie; the cousins are just outstanding. Gambon voices the lead villain perfectly (I particularly like when Bean trashes a trailer while the other two just watch).

It isn’t just the characters where the movie draws it’s strength from; it’s in the little things one must watch for. There are things going on the background that one might not notice on first viewing. Yes, it’s one of those movies, but it’s a good thing. It will only get better on subsequent viewing. For example, there’s a moment during the final battle in which the town gets set on fire. There’s a figure there holds it’s hands on it’s head, totally bewildered for a few seconds THEN proceeds to run away. Then there’s the baseball-type game that makes absolutely no sense and the kids run and spin around randomly. No one will miss how proper the Foxes are before and after they scarf down their food (OMNOMNOM!!), though. Yes, this is an extremely funny movie.

Bottom Line: While not the most original movie in the world, Fantastic Mr Fox is an extremely funny and enjoyable film. You’ll laugh hard during most of the movie and you will have a smile on your face when you aren’t. In a year that PIXAR didn’t completely dominate (sorry, folks, Up wasn’t THAT great), Mr Fox stands as a rather unique and very fun movie that all ages will enjoy.

9/10 (Highly Recommended).

I probably should explain the title of the post. The character do use profanity in the movie, but the exact words aren’t used. Instead they use the word “cuss” for any swear words. Examples:

“Are you cussing with me?”

“Cuss yeah you are.”

And yes, “this place is a cluster-cuss.”

Awesome.


4 Responses to “Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox”

  1. I just watched this again the other night and laughed just as hard as the first time. The Badger-Fox argument in Badger’s office was pure Murray.

    • I’ve only seen it once, but I think this is a movie that would keep getting better the more one sees it. That argument is one of the better parts, too. Just hilarious stuff there.

  2. I think I liked Up a bit more than you did but this still blows it out of the water. Very funny and witty. If I recall this didn’t even make 10 mill. For shame.

    • Most people like Up more than I did (not that I thought it was bad), but yes, this one is SO much better. It is a shame it wasn’t widely seen.

      Good year for animated movies. Coraline, Mr Fox, Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Princess and the Frog…all very good, if not amazing.

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