For some reason everything Wes Anderson does seems so off-beat yet so calculated, it has the same amount of the dreaded “quirkiness” and charm as other films, it just feels so forced and worst of all at times fake.
In saying that this is his best film since Bottle Rocket.
I hated The Royal Tenenbaums for the F-word above, liked Rushmore more for what it wanted to be (and perhaps what I wanted it to be), and thought The Life Aquatic a spectacular failure that had potential greatness somewhere in it, if that even makes sense.
(As an aside I also watched The Darjeeling Limited and liked it, but didn’t feel passionate about it enough in any one direction to have an opinion on it.)
Now given that we have a director who wants to peddle charm and quirkiness in equal and liberal amounts, what better setting than the re-telling of a children’s story about a cast of human-like animals told in stop motion animation?
If you can come up with a more ideal scenario please tell me, I can’t do it. (Better yet tell Wes Anderson!)
George Clooney is (not yet Fantastic) Mr Fox.
– His Mrs Fox is Meryl Streep.
– His lawyer-badger is Bill Murray.
– (Later) His son Ash is Jason Schwartzmann.
Sounds good already don’t it?
Early in proceedings Mr & Mrs Fox are a huntin’ chickens, only a near miss caused Mrs F to demand that Mr F rethink his career path, as she is preggers.
Fast forward 2 years, or as we are told 12 Fox years. >>>>>>>>>>
Mr Fox is now a successful local journalist with the a young son and devoted wife, only he feels that living in the ground is somehow beneath him, or at least the ground.
He wants some new digs that don’t require digging, and after ignoring the sage advice of his lawyer takes residence in a tree near three dangerous-to-animals local farmers. At the same time Ash’s cousin Kristofferson comes to stay with the family, which doesn’t impress Ash as the newcomer seems superior in every way.
While everything seems perfect from the outside, Mr Fox is toey and decides to pull off one last job, or three last jobs if you will, as he sets out to rob from each of the neighbouring farms.
So with Kylie the o’possum alongside for the lark, Mr Fox does exactly that, and incurs the inevitable wrath that comes with stealing from dangerous farmers.
The three farmers band together to eradicate their local pests and his family, firstly with shovels, then ditch-diggers, then explosives, forcing Mr Fox to do something to both save his family, their friends and earn the kudos that come with the title of Fantastic.
Stop motion animation is at once strange yet it draws you in with the herky-jerky actions, Wes Anderson obviously had a great time with the device and some of the visuals are hilarious, including a letter scene that involves many animals dancing to celebrate success, and a musical number that is genuinely charming.
This is the perfect vehicle for Anderson as some of his dialogue sounds forced and unnatural when coming from a human, but for whatever reason movie-goers are more forgiving when the same intricate dialogue is said by an animal. After all, if we accept that an animal has the capacity for speech, it isn’t a stretch to expect them to be witty, urbane and whimsical.
Wes Anderson also has a great ear for music, and his films always have memorable and catchy tunes that don’t seem to be used in other films, (and always the Rolling Stones. Always.) The music is also cleverly integrated as Mr Fox carries on his person a walkman that he turns on and off with relevant music to support his thoughts or actions.
The voice acting thankfully doesn’t have the distracting impact of making you think “Hey, that’s Bill Murray”, the dialogue is dry and witty and the puppets (?) spectacularly detailed and well designed.
Mr Fox has amazingly long skinny legs and a great clothes designer, and the various animals that they come across are all unique yet faithful to the actual source animal, and for some reason George Clooney’s voice coming out of his mouth just seems right.
If Wes Anderson has the choice between making self indulgent films like Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic, or making self indulgent films like this, I sincerely hope that he goes down this path. Tim Burton seems to have done exactly that, and despite the awkward Chocolate Factory gaffe he is chugging along nicely.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. There is nothing awesome about Fantastic Mr Fox, but I could watch films like this every week and never grow tired of them.