Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★

Wes Anderson takes Roald Dahl's story about a clever fox who steals food from his farmer neighbours and Americanizes and Andersonizes it. No longer do we have a heroic Mr. Fox who is lauded by his family for stealing food from under the villainous farmers' noses, but now we have a man who is the head of a dysfunctional family. Mrs. Fox wants a "normal" life, free from the dangers of Mr. Fox's kleptomania, and no longer wants to live in a hole in the ground. In response to his existential crisis, Mr. Fox decides to do one last "job," before trying to give up his identity as vulpes vulpes in order to appease his wife.

Stylistically, Fantastic Mr. Fox is beautifully crafted, to no surprise. Despite being filmed in stop-motion, it still has Anderson's signature visual flair, including symmetrical framing and tracking shots. The textures of the characters are meticulously detailed, right down to the way the cider sloshes around in their tiny glasses. The voice casting brings the characters to life, from the crafty Mr. Fox (Clooney), the warm and firm Mrs. Fox (Streep), their eagerly impetuous son Ash (Schwartzman), and the timid and uncertain Kylie (Wolodarsky). The music is equally charming, adding to the storybook quality of the film.

Despite its technical achievements, I struggled to connect with this film. Yes, it certainly has its moments of hilarity and charm, but I'm still trying to put my finger on what specifically distanced me from the film. Maybe it has something to do with Anderson's nearly complete abandonment of the suspense of Dahl's short story. I found I was much more concerned about the fate of the characters in Dahl's story than in Anderson's adaptation, as the farmers seem more bumbling than menacing. Even though I found it to be a little more style than substance, Fantastic Mr. Fox is still a quirky, charming, and clever film.

I haven't given up on trying to appreciate Anderson . . . yet.

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