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Fantastic Mr. Fox

March 14, 2010

There are some skills that certain directors are masters of. Hayao Miyazaki is a god of animation, Tarantino is a craftsman of violent dramas, Godard is a pioneer of experimental, and it seems now that Wes Anderson was made for stop-motion animation. To be honest I’ve never understood the hype around Wes Anderson and his films. Sure he has beautiful vision and his films are aesthetically pleasing to watch but plot wise his films are just “eh.” They get so wrapped up in their own pretension through introductions and quirkiness that I’ve never been able to connect with any of his characters or storytelling methods. In fact I’ve never seen an entire Wes Anderson film except Rushmore; his films are just so uninteresting and boring that by the first hour I can’t help but turn them off. Yet Fantastic Mr. Fox makes me want to re-watch every single Wes Anderson film to see what I’ve possibly missed considering Fantastic Mr. Fox has become one of my new favorite films. It perfectly fits Anderson’s style of directing and develops its quirky characters with more precision and ease than any other Anderson film I’ve seen. Plus it becomes easier to connect with the characters because they’re so damn cute.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a chicken thief. He enjoys the wild nature and adrenaline of stealing chickens from local farms. After being caught in a fox trap, his wife Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), drops the bombshell that she is pregnant and makes him promise that if they survive that he will get a real job. They live and he does and two years later (twelve in fox years) Mr. Fox is an editorial writer for a local paper living an average life with his wife and emo/“different” son Ash, with the hopes of moving his family up to a higher status. However the urge to revert back to his old lifestyle beckons him with the challenge of three new high security farms in the area. In his arrogance to out-fox the farmers, Mr. Fox instead enrages them igniting a war for the determined farmers to kill him. Mr. Fox must find a way to cunningly save his family, friends, and pride.

The beauty of Fantastic Mr. Fox is how deep and mature the story is while still maintaining humorous child like qualities. It incorporates a Looney Tunes style of directing in action sequences while also highlighting Anderson’s clever and sarcastic sense of humor and skillful cinematic eye. Anderson takes stop motion foxes, badgers, possums, and other types of woodland creatures and develops them in such a way that when stop motion humans appear on screen they seems odd and out of place. The development and characteristics of each character fits the actor portraying them from Meryl Streep’s classy calm demeanor through Mrs. Fox to Jason Schwartzman’s almost Rushmore like oddness as Ash and best of all the arrogant story topper, Mr. Fox embodies the charming sophistication that George Clooney is famed for.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the obvious product of a philosopher and film lover. Anderson humorously incorporates scenes that pay homage to classics Rebel Without a Cause as well as The Wild One through Rat (Willem Defoe), a Chino like knife-totting West Side Story dancing villain. Yet the film also touches on the subject of existentialism and self-identification as Ash has problems having others and at times his self’s acceptance. The topic of nature vs. nature is also touched upon through Mr. Fox’s understanding of why he sets himself up for trouble, ultimately realizing it’s because at heart he’s nothing more than “a wild animal.” Fantastic Mr. Fox is nearly perfect; mastering stunning cinematography, hilarious dialogue, great sight gags, and a well developed story. Although it makes me want to go back and watch Anderson’s other films, I fear none of them will top just how fantastic this film is.


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