Fantastic Mr. Fox Review

Mr. Fox and Mrs. Felicity Fox raid a farm. When they are trapped, Mrs. Fox insists that Mr. Fox take a less risky job because she’s pregnant. After 12 fox years (which equals about 2 human years), Mr. Fox decides to raid the farm again. Only this time, the farmers intend on killing Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is now a smartly dressed newspaper man. His wife (Meryl Streep) cooks, cleans, raises their son and paints pictures of lighting storms. Son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), who likes to wear a superhero cape, is small for his age but wants to be an athlete. He is intimidated by his cousin Kristopherson (Eric Chase Anderson), who is staying with them and just happens to be good at everything. Mr. Fox is suffering from midlife crisis. He’s dissatisfied with their home underground. He wants to upgrade to a tree against the advice of his lawyer, Clive Badger (Bill Murray). The tree has a perfect view of the three farmers - Boggins, Bunce, and Bean.

In a moment of existential musing, Mr. Fox tells his opossum friend Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky) that he wants to raid the chicken farm because “can a fox be happy without a chicken in its teeth?” The plan works great, so Mr. Fox raids the other two farms. The farmers find out where Mr. Fox lives and use everything from backhoes and dynamite to chase his family out. The other animals are affected too, and they blame him for their predicament of being forced to hide and starve. Mr. Fox helps them steal the farmers’ food. The farmers retaliate by flooding their tunnels. Somewhere along the way, Mr. Fox loses his tail to a shotgun blast and one of the farmers wears it as a tie. Ash makes his cousin help him get it back. When Kristopherson is captured, a major plan must be hatched to stop the war and save the cousin.

Clooney’s Mr. Fox is suave and self assured. He looks sharp and natty in his caramel corduroy suit. He confesses to his exasperated wife that he just wants people to think he’s “Fantastic.” Spaced out opossum Kylies’ eyes glaze over with spirals when his brain overloads. Willem Dafoe is wonderful as the security rat that sells himself out for liquored cider and will one day “end up dead behind a Chinese restaurant.” Owen Wilson also shows up as the coach of a game similar to cricket but sillier.

There are so many wonderful things about this movie. From the minute hairs on the snouts, the way they eat, how they dig their tunnels during their escapes, the way they flutter their arms around, and how they wear “bandit caps” when doing their hi-jinks. It’s all very detailed, laid back, and makes sense in their world. The movie is bathed in warm autumnal hues with the Beach Boys tunes as the soundtrack.

Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Rushmore) knows his way around quirky material. Anderson and Noah Baumback adapted Roald Dahl’s 1970’s children’s book of the same name, creating a back story for the Fox family and turning his 4 children into one composite child. The film uses several forms of animation, but mainly uses stop-motion with the crew who animated Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. It doesn’t flow as smoothly as Burton’s characters, but they are strangely more human. The smart dialogue will probably go over the heads of the younger audience. The older ones may relate to the father / son storyline that seems to resonate in some of Anderson’s other work.

The movie is unexpected, loose, and reinvigorates this genre. Pulling in the big star names to voice the naturally sounding characters was spot on. That Wes Anderson is clever as a fox. (Review by Reesa Cruz-Hawkins)