Friday, February 3, 2012

100 Movies - No. 36 Fantastic Mr. Fox

36. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Animation, Adventure, Comedy, 87 minutes
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman

If you read my reviews regularly, you'll know that my favorite animation comes from Studio Ghibli and Pixar. Both studios produce movies with a lot of heart and characters that it's easy to love. Fantastic Mr. Fox does not fall into that category. It's grittier and more realistic. Although it's funny, this is a movie that's aimed at an older audience.

The first clue that the movie is going to be different is that it's directed by Wes Anderson. His movies all have a distinctive feel. His humor is ever-present, but it's more subtle than that found in the average dumb comedy. Anderson's brain seems to work slightly differently. At the start of the movie, Mr. Fox (Clooney) asks Mrs. Fox (Streep) is she would rather take the short cut or the scenic route. He explains that the scenic route is prettier and also a little shorter. That's the type of humor found in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's nearly all in the dialogue. There are a few exceptions, such as the way the characters move, and the use of drugged blueberries, but you'll get the most out of the movie if you focus on the dialogue.

The movie uses stop motion rather than computer generated or drawn animation. It's a beautiful thing to see. The settings sometimes look two dimensional, but the photography shows every hair on these colorful characters. Fans of Anderson will recognize many of the actors he likes to work with. Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are all involved, along with some of the best actors in the business.

The vocabulary is quite sophisticated and is another clue that the movie isn't aimed at children. That doesn't mean that children can't appreciate it, but be prepared to explain a few words. There are also a couple of violent scenes which could disturb a few people.

There's quite a lot going on beneath the surface. Anderson questions whether Mr. Fox is a good husband and a good father. Can he deny his true nature and stick to legal employment rather than stealing chickens? He seems to be struggling constantly and his son, Ash (Schwartzman), isn't always his priority. Is Mr. Fox capable of change?

This is a delightful black comedy which happens to be animated. I really could have chosen any Wes Anderson film and suggest that you explore everything he has released if this is your type of humor. I love the way the animals eat, wear bandit hats, calculate things in fox years, play Whack-Bat, and make plans for every move they are going to make. The next time somebody says "what the cuss" you will know where that comes from.

If you like Fantastic Mr. Fox:

Check out every Wes Anderson film; it's that simple. Owen and Luke Wilson were great in Bottle Rocket. Bandit hats and itineraries make an appearance there too. Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited will all feel familiar if you like the way that Fantastic Mr. Fox is told. Anderson loves to feature Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, but you'll encounter some other great actors such as Gene Hackman. Entering a Wes Anderson world is always fun.

Click here to see my full review of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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