"Mr. Fox" is truly fantastic

Dec. 1, 2009, midnight | By Natalie Rutsch | 14 years, 6 months ago

Anderson tells Dahl's story with skillful authenticity

Roald Dahl has style. His beloved children's books are sprinkled with eccentricities like obese characters and supernatural events and saturated with his characteristically dark humor. So, it's only fitting that visionary filmmaker Wes Anderson, of "The Royal Tenenbaums" fame, direct the film adaptation of Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."

In "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," Anderson tackles animation for the first time. Although he enters a whole new medium, stop-motion animation, Anderson still infuses the film with his personal style. The resulting work is an authentic and artfully-crafted film depiction of Dahl's spirited 1970 children's novel.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox," a quick-moving story, introduces Mr. Fox, a former chicken-stealer, who moves his family into a luxurious new tree house. Across from the new home live three farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox decides to pull off one last, great robbery from each of the farmers. Unfortunately for the cocky Mr. Fox, the farmers notice the theft and begin a wild campaign to catch Mr. Fox, who, along with his family and other community animals, must tunnel into the ground to avoid the angry farmers.

The crew that created Tim Burton's 2005 feature "Corpse Bride" animated the film under Anderson's direction. The stop-motion animation shows fabulous attention to detail – from the foam coming out of a champagne bottle to the foam coming out of a rabid beagle's mouth, Anderson's crew doesn't let one bubble go unnoticed.

The animation also shows a great degree of creative control. The character's expressions and motions are manipulated purposively, according to Anderson's style. When the characters eat, for instance, they tear their food apart like animals, a small but wildly entertaining detail.

Anderson's directive presence is evident in multiple aspects of the film. He uses titles throughout the film to announce different chapters, a feature present in his previous work (even the font – Futura – is consistent). The titles recall the film's roots: Dahl's novel.

Like in his other films, Anderson uses early rock, as well as a score in "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Music by The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and other artists and a score by French composer Alexandre Desplat ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") weaves throughout the film, providing an energetic accompaniment to the fast-paced movie.

Anderson's cinematographic style suits "Fox's" speed. Anderson favors quick cuts between scenes. In several instances, a character makes a dryly-humorous joke, and immediately Anderson cuts to another scene, or the next chapter of the film. The result: a zippy, dead-pan film that keeps audiences enthralled.

Another lovable element of the film is the familiar voices of megastars like George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. Clooney voices Mr. Fox with charm, keeping audiences enraptured with the title character despite his flaws and mistakes. Streep sounds as Mrs. Fox; she gives the character a generally soft, feminine voice (except when Mrs. Fox loses her temper). Murray, who frequently appears in Anderson's films, is comical as Clive Badger, Mr. Fox's lawyer.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" brings a worldwide bestselling children's author, an artistically-acclaimed director and several Hollywood heavyweights together seamlessly in a bona fide rendition of a "fantastic" story.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (97 minutes) is rated PG for action, smoking and slang humor. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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