Monday, September 9, 2013

Movie Review: "Fantastic Mr. Fox" by David Pretty

In the tradition of Coraline and A Nightmare Before Christmas, Fantastic Mr. Fox elevates the age-old Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation into a truly magical and original viewing experience.

Based on Roald Dahl's children's novel of the same name, the story begins with the titular Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) swearing to his ever-patient and suddenly-with-cub wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) that he's done with the risky enterprise of barn-raiding. True to his word, when Fox becomes a dad again he starts a new career as a newspaper columnist, invests in some real estate, and then does his best to fly straight.

Unfortunately the call of the wild is a strong one, and when he's tempted by the nearby holdings of three rich and despotic farmers, he enlists the help of Kylie Sven Opossum (Wallace Wolodarsky) and his capable young nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) to raid their wares. Unwilling to let this brazen theft slide, their human foes immediately declare war on Fox and the entire surrounding countryside.

This movie is pure, unadulterated fun. First off, the character designs are infused with a wealth of personality and unique mannerisms. This dovetails nicely with the film's ample voice talent. Jason Schwartzman is particularly good as Fox's petulant son Ash, Bill Murray is delightful as legal council Clive Badger and Michael "Dumbledore" Gambon seems to be having a blast as crazed farmer Franklin Bean.

The characters come to life in one beautiful miniature set after another and there are so many throw-away visual details the film practically begs for repeat viewing. In fact, the movie is so jammed-packed with creative verve it's downright hypnotic. The unorthodox animation, great line readings and Wes Anderson's quirky eye all add up to one of the funniest flicks I've seen in recent memory, animation or otherwise.

In the hands of a lesser director, this could have been a frivolous and disposable kiddie flick, but with Anderson at the helm, it transcends expectations and becomes something entertaining for viewers of all ages. Anderson cleverly applies some of his best techniques from previous efforts, including the criminally-underrated Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. His brilliant use of music, witty chapter titles and nigh-obsessive fascination with cut-away views all add up to a unique comedy confection.

Fantastic Mr. Fox stands at the apex of a charming and unique sub-category of animation. I highly recommend this film to anyone who reads this and, personally, I can't wait to see it again. 

Tilt: up.

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