Movie Review – The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Plot: After stealing from three wealthy farms, Mr. Fox and his family become fugitives as the farmers declare war and won’t rest until Mr. Fox is found.

In the late 90’s and early part of this decade, Wes Anderson was one of my favorite filmmakers.  Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are two of my favorite movies.  But after Tenenbaums, he released the very mediocre Life Aquatic and then The Darjeeling Limited three years later, his worst film yet.  But he’s back in a big way with his latest effort, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Although it’s animated, you can tell it’s a Wes Anderson movie.  The man has a very distinct style that is his own, often very quirky and off-beat.  Normally this style of filmmaking frustrates me to no end such as films like I Heart Huckabees or Burn After Reading.  They are just being weird for the sake of being weird but ultimately say nothing.  I accept Wes Anderson’s style because his weirdness actually enhances who the characters are, and the man writes damn good characters.  Fantastic Mr. Fox has these in bunches, which Anderson’s previous two movies did not.

This is a funny movie.  It’s not laugh-out-loud, but that’s okay.  The story is ‘meh,’ but the characters are off the charts hysterical.  The way they interact with each other and the environment around them is so much fun to watch.  This is credit to the writing, but the voice talents really give the characters their mojo.  George Clooney as Mr. Fox takes some getting used to, but the voice grows on you as the film goes on.  Jason Schwartzman is fantastic as Mr. Fox’s egotistical and underachieving son, Ash.  Bill Murray – great as always.  But the man who steals the show is Wally Wolodarsky as Kylie the possum.  He’s portrayed as a little crazy and unstable (the great visuals attest to this), but his voice is so sensible and subdued.  I loved it.

The best part is the relationship between the father and son, Mr. Fox and Ash.  Both characters are exactly the same, yet one is successful and the other fails.  Mr. Fox is so damn reckless as he literally digs himself into deeper and deeper holes, yet most of the time he comes out the winner.  His son Ash is exactly the same, only he fails miserably at everything he does.  What also makes this relationship fascinating is that Mr. Fox sees his son as different and an oddball, yet he can’t see that he’s the same way and instead bonds with his nephew, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), who not only has all the talent in the world, but is very zen and has his head on straight.  Mr. Fox thinks Kristofferson is just like him, but they are two very different people.  Watching all these characters clash is what makes a Wes Anderson movie great.

The one big problem I had is that the story is too impulsive.  What I mean is that it just decides to ramp up whenever it wants to with no build up or explanation.  At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Fox decides he’s done stealing from farms, but resorts back to his old ways after years of retirement, just like that.  I understand that the character himself is impulsive, but I didn’t buy this quick turn.  It just happens.

There is also some of that “weird for the sake of being weird” element that adds nothing.  There’s one scene in particular that brought me a great deal of frustration.  The characters just start dancing.  I know why they are dancing, but it felt way out of place, especially because everyone was acting so subdued throughout the movie to this point.

If you are a Wes Anderson fan like me, you are going to love this.  The characters have all their quirks about them, especially in how they dress, which is what I expect in an Anderson flick. They face serious problems like death and family with a seemingly “whatever” attitude, but you still get the sense they care a great deal.  Even if you don’t know or like Anderson, you will enjoy this one a lot.  If anything, the stop motion animation is fun to watch.  You don’t see that anymore.

Rating:  8.0 out of 10.       

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