We’re big Wes Anderson fans in this house. Rushmore is one of my top five favorite movies of all time, and I weep every time I watch The Royal Tennenbaums. So, we were particularly excited about the latest book adaptation to make it to the big screen, Fantastic Mr. Fox, a Wes Anderson movie we could go to as a family.
Honestly, Wes Anderson and stop-motion were made for each other, and this is his best movie since Rushmore. As I mentioned in my last post, we read the book to introduce Olive to the story before we went. The main plot of the book is that Mr. Fox stole so much from the three mean farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, that they decided he must be killed. Lots of shooting occurs (including Mr. Fox getting his tail blown off), until the farmers trap the foxes and all of the other underground dwellers underground so they’ll starve to death. Mr. Fox comes up with a plan that saves them all.
The movie has all of this, but it feels like a subplot to the new family drama added in Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach’s adaptation. Mr. Fox is, well, fantastic, and his son Ash is having a hard time living up to his father’s image. It doesn’t help that Ash’s cousin, the naturally gifted Kristofferson, comes to stay and takes even more attention away from Ash. The story becomes less about squab and cider stealing, and more about the family relationships, leading up to an action-packed rescue mission.
The trailer in no way does justice to how cool this jerky style of stop motion looks on the big screen. There’s a fox chase scene in the beginning that took my breath away. There are also wonderful little visual details, some of which were very funny, like the little fox underwear, Ash’s grape juice mustache, Kylie’s spirally dazed eyes, and Mrs. Fox’s paintings of thunderstorms.
And then there’s the fantastic acting. Having heavy hitters George Clooney and Meryl Streep in the starring roles is a treat, and Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman does a superb job as the dejected Ash. Other Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson are good fun, too. The only choice that I thought was strange was giving Bean, the meanest, nastiest farmer, the voice of Dumbledore – Michael Gambon. His voice is like velvet, making Bean more gentlemanly than violent.
For those worried about the violence natural to the story, yes, there are guns and explosions, but the farmers aren’t nearly as menacing as they are in the book, and the stop motion animation gives all of the shooting and fire and explosions a styled look that makes it perfectly fine for little eyes.
This has been an amazing year for children’s movies, and Fantastic Mr. Fox is hovering near the top of my list. There’s been some hubbub this week about which movies will get nominated for the animated film Oscar. If I had my way, that list would look like this:
Are you listening, Academy? I know, I know… you’re probably wondering where Up is. At the end of the day, I enjoyed all of these movies more, and so did Olive. It was beautiful, but my reservations about it keep it off my list. And, I think we can all agree that Where the Wild Things Are wasn’t a children’s movie (it’s not eligible for animated feature, anyhoo).