It seems common these days for movies to be produced that are based on a book, a short story, or some article. I don’t know if you can attribute that to a dearth of creativity in Hollywood, that writers are only capable of adapting the work of others, or if filmmakers just really want to bring certain stories to the big screen. However, I absolutely cannot claim Fantastic Mr. Fox to be one of these uncreative adaptations, because in all honesty, it’s one of the most unique films I have ever seen.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on the book by famed author Roald Dahl (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory). However, what is done here instead of making it into a typical animated movie, Director Wes Anderson implements stop-motion animation in a casual, eye-catching way that leaves us with a tremendously interesting film.
The movie is centered around Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), and his family. He’s a former thief, but upon finding that he’s going to be a father, makes a promise to Mrs. Fox that he’ll find a more legitimate line of work. He becomes a newspaper writer, and eventually moves his family out of their foxhole and into a tree, but he’s got one last heist on his mind, and the bulk of the movie is centered around the fall-out of his supposed last hurrah.
Usually, I find stop-motion distracting. I understand the process perhaps a little too well, and I know that it’s a tedious and arduous process. But Anderson handles it with great aplomb and delicate care, and never once during the movie did I find the stop-motion gimmicky or distracting.
What Wes Anderson has always been known for is his idiosyncratic quirk, and he tones it down in this film to almost a complete mute. Adapting the source material must’ve given Anderson a significantly shorter leash, and although some of his charm is still evident in the movie, it’s not blatant. He shows great potential here, both as an animated director, and as a director who is capable of evolving.
The voice acting here is top notch, and is only a tiny step below the voice acting in Where The Wild Things Are. Clooney provides his usual suaveness. Meryl Streep (Mrs. Fox) speaks with a delicate grace, and her voice is soft and emotional. The major standout is Jason Schwartzman as their young cub Ash, and he plays the oddball child fox with great zest. The movie is filled with other recognizable voices in smaller roles (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray), but the family of Fox’s are the largest portion of the film. Although the film is rated PG, the dialogue is quick and fun, and never plays overtly like a PG film.
The film develops quite well, at a quick pace, and never does the story sag or get bogged down. It’s straight-forward and simple, and although the movie is targeted for kids, there are a lot of themes that adults would be much better at grasping. Those themes include embracing who you are, accepting responsibilities, redemption, and finding the joy in friends.
Another strongpoint in the film is the soundtrack. It’s typical of an Anderson picture, wonderfully and originally scored, but also containing recognizable songs from bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys.
Fans of the book will quickly realize, as was to be expected, that a lot of content has been added to make this a feature film. The contents of the book comprises most of the middle portion of the film (the 2nd Act, if I’m allowed to patronize my readers). The little intricacies of the production, the little bottles, the trees, the apples, it all adds an unmistakable charm to the picture that overall makes it one of the most unique and creative animated films I’ve ever seen.
Final Score: 8.0/10 (Very Good)