First of all, I like Wes Anderson; the Royal Tenenbaums being perhaps my favourite of all his work. He certainly is a unique fimmaker who makes makes movies that, at lest in this day and age, could be regarded as a bit off-beat.
Not that there is anything wrong with that of course. Variety is the spice of life and with all the usual bland fare and/or sequels that Hollywood is churning out these days, it is refreshing to know that there are still directors out there who believe in making great films.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of those rare films. In any given year, a stop-motion feature film would garner a lot of attention, mainly because there was a good chance it would be the only one! Not so for Fantastic Mr. Fox, who had to contend with the also excellent Coraline at the box office and the Academy Awards. Side note: Henry Sellick was attached to Fantastic Mr. Fox at the beginning but left to direct Coraline instead.
For starters, the animation is superb. Relying heavily on a colour palette of reds, yellows and browns, the landscape looks positively agricultural. An important aspect of a film set in the countryside. The use of stop motion was a risk that paid off handsomely. The style suits very well, much the same as it did in another Roald Dahl book, James and the Giant Peach.
In typical Wes Anderson style, the music isn’t quite what you would expect and although he does not have Quentin Tarantino levels of sound selection, it was nonetheless welcome to hear the Beach Boys pop up in the middle of the film.
As for the plot, having read the book and being very familiar with it as a result, my greatest fear was that Anderson would mess with the plot and turn it into something that is wasn’t. However, I made my mind up beforehand that I would forget about the book and concentrate on the plot as it was presented to me on screen.
Thankfully, things were not near as bad as I had anticipated. The extra bits that were added at the beginning and end of the movie tie in very well with the bit in the middle that comprises the actual book.
All is not perfect unfortunately. I cam away from Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling disappointed. It wasn’t the animation, or the plot or the music or even Wes Anderson’s unique directing style. Nope all of those were great. For me, it was the characters.
I identify very strongly with characters. I like to see characters that, while flawed in one way or another, are complete on the whole. Although I say above that I tried my best to forget the book in the course of watching the movie, it was hoe Wes Anderson interpreted the fox family and their cohort that did it for me.
Mr Fox is no longer the devoted husband and father, instead we see and egotistical, bitter middle-aged guy who goes back to steeling stuff for the sheer thrill and escape it brings him from his supposedly pathetic life. I find it very difficult to like a guy like that, even if he is voiced by George Clooney.
As for Mrs. Fox, she apparently regrets the whole ordeal! I mean c’mon, now she’s not likeable either. And don’t get me started on the kid, Ash. I know the kids don’t play much of a role in the book, but man, did I want to give that kid the spanking he deserved.
Ironically enough, the three farmers are as mean and nasty as you would expect from three men infatuated with killing a fox. It’s just that with a protagonist that is so close in character to them, it is hard to know who to root for.
So there you have it, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a film that was lauded by the critics (who I also don’t particularly like) and while technically brilliant in all respects, falls on the critical component that ties it all together.