Fantastic Mr. Fox-2009
Voices George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray
Scott’s Review #1,329
Reviewed December 30, 2022
I have fond memories of, either reading or being read, Roald Dahl’s famous 1970 children’s novel entitled Fantastic Mr. Fox. The story involves the clever and hungry Mr. Fox and how he outwits his farmer neighbors to steal food from under their noses.
In 2009, it is adapted into a stop-motion animated film by Wes Anderson and includes the voice of George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox. Anyone familiar with Anderson’s work knows well that an added dose of eccentricity will inevitably be included as well as a unique narrative.
I confess to either being in the mood for an Anderson film or not but at least I know to know what I’m in store for.
Anderson co-wrote the screenplay with Noah Baumbach known for making witty and intellectual comedies like The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Greenberg (2010).
Fantastic Mr. Fox pairs well with 2018’s Isles of Dogs if we are talking about Anderson films. Both include the thoughts and peculiarities of animals, similar stop motion, and a story about trickery and revenge pitting man against animals.
There is an eerie and prominent comparison to Animal Farm, a 1950s George Orwell novel and film adaptation, that I noticed.
The farm, animals, class system, and desire for power and authority.
When Mr. Fox’s nightly raids on three nearby farms raise the tempers of three selfish farmers who are losing their chickens, he must outwit the outrageous plans to catch him.
After all, in his mind, he is merely trying to feed his hungry family and neighbors, and Mr. Fox must find a new way to get his paws on the bounty.
Billed as a children’s film probably because it’s based on a children’s novel, Fantastic Mr. Fox contains aspects that will go way over kids’ heads. This suits me well however because I have a fascination for animation that pushes the envelope or moves beyond the overdone ‘safe genre’.
Think of it as a kid’s film for adults.
It would appear difficult to side solely with Mr. Fox since he is a thief. We are all taught at a young age not to steal but it’s difficult not to root for Mr. Fox. He steals not to gorge himself but to feed his family and community.
Of course, he is addicted to being a cad and quickly returns to his thieving ways finding his calling and strong satisfaction.
A good lesson for kids and adults is the neighborly aspect of Fantastic Mr. Fox. There is a camaraderie amongst the animals that I find lovely and inspiring. They band together and cohabitate in an underground community and later the sewer always having each other’s backs.
The farmers are portrayed as the villains though we can certainly understand their hardships at having their animals stolen and eaten. But Anderson hits home that the farmers are greedy and obsessed with their wealth, happy to kill any animals they see fit.
It’s satisfying to see them get defeated.
The story is outshined by the visuals though. It’s difficult not to focus on the technique and stunning attention to detail, especially in the tunnel sequences. The character performances and shadowy framework make one realize just how far stop motion has come.
The autumnal colors of red, orange, and yellow, perfectly enhance the visual style and season that Anderson and team create. Even the cue card titles between scenes are meticulous art that harkens back to sophisticated cartoons of yesteryear.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) is a creative, edgy, and intelligently written and scored production. Multi generations are featured with means young kids, parents, and grandparents with a hunger for a left-of-center and thought-provoking approach will be well satisfied.
Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score