Written by Caballero Oscuro
Wes Anderson, animation director? Seems like an unlikely job description for the distinctive live-action writer/director, but as it turns out, his foray into the world of stop-motion animation yields considerable rewards. This is also his first full-blown adapted screenplay, and while his film still bears the title of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel Fantastic Mr. Fox and follows the same basic plot, it’s really his show all the way.
George Clooney lends his voice as the titular fox, an aging family man grappling with a midlife crisis forcing him to choose between his stable domestic life and the criminal exploits of his youth. He justifies his thieving excursions as his nature, but fails to recognize the consequences when things go awry. He foolishly targets three well-guarded farms for his ill-gotten gains, putting his family and friends in jeopardy when the farmers coming looking for retribution. Sounds somewhat dramatic, but the film is played for comedy for the most part and keeps a fairly light-hearted approach throughout.
If you’re a fan of Anderson ’s work, you’ll be right at home in his new sandbox, but if you’re looking for a mainstream kids movie you may want to move along. There’s nothing really objectionable for younger tots, but the film requires an adult point of reference to fully enjoy its charms. From Mr. Fox’s midlife crisis to his son’s teen angst to Anderson’s typically atypical pacing and dialogue, the film fits in perfectly with the rest of Anderson’s filmography, which resides nowhere near the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks animation neighborhood.
Anderson purposely selected stop-motion as his animation medium because of his love for the artform due to its warmth and handmade feel. He made no demands to limit the amount of fur displacement on the detailed animal character models caused by the painstaking animation process, seemingly delighting in their constantly ruffled appearance. His infatuation with the ‘70s continues here, with muted earth tones as his palette and clearly retro technology littered throughout his backgrounds. He also drove his animators crazy with some decidedly live-action shot selection, but the end results appear to deliver what he envisioned. It’s hard not to compare the animation to the pioneering stop-motion work of Rankin Bass or even fellow Dahl stop-motion adaptation James and the Giant Peach, but an even closer comparison is the ‘80s-‘90s work of British studio Cosgrove Hall, particularly their similar “animals in clothes” series The Wind in the Willows and Brambly Hedge. If you have any affinity for stop-motion animation, there’s much to admire here.