Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Movie Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Friday, December 11, 2009

Movie Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

By Lissette Decos

Fortunately, Fantastic Mr. Fox is not just for children. In fact, the showing I went to had all of one child under the age of 10. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's based on a children's book or by the stop-motion animation. It's Wes Anderson. And he's found a way to make it more for adults, more like Rushmore meets The Royal Tenenbaums with a splash of Life Aquatic... heck, it's like all of his movies (which are, in effect, like all of his movies), a very funny, excellently scored series of beautiful and meticulously crafted images.

Roald Dahl's original story—about a fox that is hunted down by three evil farmers—has been tweaked to fit neatly into le petite lexicon of Wes Anderson themes. These recurring themes being of course: sons coming to terms with their flawed fathers; sons coming to terms with their own quirkiness; and fathers and/or sons that just don't want to grow up.

I was surprised at first, but after seeing the film I realized that stop-motion is actually a perfect fit for Wes. He's the kind of director/artist that likes to control it all, designing everything down to the suits that his main characters wear (which, incidentally, look an awful lot like the ones the director wears himself). The scenes in his films have always had that dollhouse feel, like we're peeking into an adorable scene taking place inside a shoebox. I bet he loved making this film because he could manipulate every single shoebox moment frame by frame. No doubt a stuffed fox is easier to manage than say, Bill Murray. Not that any director would want to manage Bill Murray... Speaking of which, George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox make for an unexpectedly appropriate addition to Anderson's recurring posse of misfits—Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson.

Recurring elements or not, I'm a huge fan and I have found that other fans of "All Things Wes" do the exact same thing. After the film is over, we go back to our list (which we keep safe in a shoe box in our hearts of course) and carefully place this film where it belongs among the rest. Each person has his or her own list. In fact, you can tell a lot about a person by how they rate Wes Anderson's films.

Here's my list, and where Mr. Fox now lives in it:

1. The Darjeeling Limited
2. Rushmore
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
4. (tie) Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums
6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

How does Fantastic Mr. Fox rate on your list?


The Mad Hatter said...

Question - a friend of mine who brought her four younger kids to see this movie had a bit of an issue with the fact that the term "cussin" is used so often in the story.

I gave my thoughts on it during my podcast, but what say you to such a detail?

BTW - Totally agree, definitely one of Anderson's better flicks, while not quite his very best.

Lissette said...

I did question if all the 'cussin' was proper for children. I didn't come up with an answer, but I think when it comes to kids there shouldn't be any doubt. Right?
I'm going to check out your podcast...

Jake said...

I don't see why saying the word "cuss" is so terrible. I mean, the average parent uses the actual swear words around a kid; is being clever such a threat?

I'd probably rank this right under Tenenbaums as my favorite of his. That's the only one that completely won me over but this one came close.

Adam Zanzie said...

Most surprising to me about Fantastic Mr. Fox were Anderson's references to classic film moments. There's a Welles reference (Michael Gambon's father does a Charles Foster Kane-style wrecking of his toolshed); a Nicholas Ray reference (the shrew quotes Dean's Jim Stark by complaining that Fox's arguments with his wife go nowhere); a Pakula reference (the secret messages are pulled from All the President's Men); and, best of all, a Truffaut reference: the Day for Night theme by Cole Porter plays during the waterfall scene.

Lovely film all around, too.