Film Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox
(Zoltron created this cussing fantastic poster for a showing of the film at San Francisco’s Red Vic Movie Hose. There was a limited release of 100 prints – guess who has one?! Guess who and win a free copy of the film!)
Since it’s Fox Week here at G3Q Designs, the lovely Laura thought it would be fun for me to review Wes Anderson’s 2009 film, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Of course I had to say yes, since it fits in so perfectly with the theme celebrating the opening of Hunter’s Alley. Plus, it provided a perfect excuse to watch FMF again!
The film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name published in 1974. Anderson has attributed the original book illustrations as inspiration for the film’s beautiful autumnal color palette of oranges, browns, and greens. Shot with the playful stop-motion technique, Anderson directs a cast of hundreds of clay puppets representing the wide array of animal and human characters. The costumes and sets are incredibly detailed and very precise. Overall, the film’s visual aesthetic is unique and delightfully nostalgic.
Mr. Fox, (voiced by George Clooney), is a family man, but he still longs for the good old days of danger, excitement and poultry theft. It’s been 12 fox-years since he’s promised Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) that he’d give up a life of crime in order to provide a safe and responsible upbringing for their cub, Ash. However, when he moves into a new posh tree that sits just off the properties of Farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, he just can’t help himself from planning one last big score. Trouble ensues when Ash and his younger cousin, Kristofferson, get mixed up in Mr. Fox’s plans, and when the farmers seek retribution for their missing chickens, turkeys, squabs, and hard apple cider. Soon the whole community of animals is forced to flee underground in order to escape from the wrath of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean.
Anderson’s film is preoccupied with ideas of identity and questions of self-image.
One plot line follows their cub, Ash, and his own pre-teen crisis of self: all Ash wants is to be an athlete like his father had been in his own youth, but everyone else says Ash is “different,” and he rankles at this label. Mr. Fox is especially plagued with doubts about who he is, asking Kylie the Opposum, “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 ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?” His struggle to reconcile who he thinks he is with who his wife wants him to be is one we can all identify with in some way or another. For her part, Mrs. Fox is a strong and sympathetic female lead who believes that we each have the power to take control of our own destinies.
My favorite exchange from the movie happens when Mrs. Fox tells her son, “I know what it’s like to feel different.” Ash responds with vulnerable stubbornness, “I’m not different…Am I?” Mrs. Fox replies, “We all are….But there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?”
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fun and quirky movie that raises questions about what it means to be a human, (or an animal), in today’s world, and how we think about who we are as individuals. The most obvious truth is that whether or not we’re born to a certain nature and identity, sometimes it only takes the right attitude to learn how to love who we are.
The Bottom Line: If you haven’t yet seen this film, I highly recommend it. Fans of Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson alike will especially enjoy it. The actors do an amazing job voicing the animals, the dialogue is superb, the lessons inspiring, and, as always, Anderson’s eccentric style keeps the whole thing interesting for children as well as adults.
Until next time, Tayler