Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox
This movie is, well...fantastic. Magical, even. Wes Anderson proves that, once again, animated films are no longer 'just for kids,' rather, a fascinating medium in which anything is possible. This is one of the year's most entertaining, clever, and heartfelt films.
The fantastic Mr. Fox is reformed. His days as a chicken thief ended with the birth of his son, and now he spends his time writing a weekly column that no one reads. Unable to deny his true nature, however, Mr. Fox plans one last grand heist (three heists, really, but who's counting?) to relive the glory days. What he didn't count on however, is the reactions of his victims, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The human world declares all-out war on Mr. Fox and his fellow animals, leading to a conflict both epic and sublimely ridiculous.
I love this movie. A lot. I love the way that it skips lightly over so many genres, both satirizing them and playing into them: in this film we can find evidence of the great caper movies a la Steve McQueen, a hint of the John Hughes teenager movie, a tiny bit of West Side Story, and, in my favorite flourish, a shootout on Main Street straight out of the best Spaghetti Westerns. In a lesser film, these switches could be detrimental to narrative and tonal continuity, but somehow, improbably, Wes Anderson makes every segment work in the context of the other.
Speaking of Wes Anderson: he wrote the script, and what a great script it is. Not only is it sharp as a tack and full of quirky humor, but it also contains wonderful moments of truth, and, dare I say, emotional honesty. I humbly submit this line for your consideration:

Mr. Fox: Who am I, Kylie?
Kylie: Who how? How what?
Mr. Fox: Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?
Kylie: I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds illegal.

What on earth is that doing in a kids' movie? The answer, of course, is that this isn't a kids' movie. It can be appreciated by anyone with enough film-going maturity to ignore the stereotypes associated with animation and simply evaluate it as a piece of work. Those who can do that won't be disappointed.
The film looks fantastic. I, for one, am absolutely astounded by any form of stop-motion animation, so when a feature-length stop-motion animation film comes along, I have all that I can do to keep from losing it. Admittedly, this year's other stop motion flick, Coraline, is more visually complicated, but The Fantastic Mr. Fox is still wonderful to look at. Worthy of particular notice are the impeccable costumes (all the animals are straight out of GQ-Rural Edition). Also highly enjoyable is Alexandre Duplat's gleeful score, which utilizes snapping, whistling, and 'small instruments' like banjos, chimes, and spoons. Yes. Spoons. It's a great mix of fun orchestration and simple, resonant musical themes.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox is endlessly enjoyable, well-paced, and one hell of a ride. On top of that, it's smart, witty, and emotionally resonant. This is one of the best movies of the year.


  1. This is probably my favorite movie of the year (I say 'probably' because I haven't seen all the movies this year, not because there are any other contenders). It's just too much fun, and more movies should be like it.

  2. I agree. I don't know if it's my favorite movie of the year, but it's sure as hell the most enjoyable.