© Twentieth Century Fox of Germany GmbH

Der Fantastische Mr. Fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox)
U.S.A./U.K. 2009

Opening 13 May 2010

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Writing credits: Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Principal actors: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon

This animated film based on the book by Roald Dahl uses 535 dolls or puppets in a frame-by-frame movie-making technique. Dapper Mr. Fox saunters or strolls confidently. He is on top of the world in his line of work, which is stealing (“always kill a chicken in one bite”) and cheating. This gets him, and his wife Felicity, into scrapes. After the birth of son Ash, he promises to change his ways and become a good role model. Ash should have a better life, so the family moves from a fox hole into a tree, against the advice of his lawyer, Badger. Teenaged Ash is a pale, cowardly moaner, not the chip off the old block. His father is disappointed, but soon, Kristofferson, the perfect, athletic, brave nephew moves in, a shining example to a rebellious Ash. Real trouble begins when the terrible farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean unite to drive out the chicken/goose/turkey thief: Mr. Fox. He cooperates with other animals that live underground to dig complicated escape tunnels. All is well in the end with the help of a river of cider; even Ash grows up to make his dad proud.

The photography and perfection of every little detail and scene is mind boggling. I don’t know why Mr. Fox didn’t win this year’s Academy Award for Best Animation, unless the jurors thought “animation” had to be computerized like the winner: Up. Director Wes Anderson has adapted and changed the original story true to his own tastes which emphasize family relationships (as in The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tennenbaums and Bottle Rocket, for example). Although fun for the whole family, this isn’t a cutesy film for small children, but rather for older kids and young adults (like Anderson, who is 40). I am sure that Roald Dahl would have endorsed this version, although Dahl’s characters seem more animal-like; he has four baby foxes, while Anderson goes for two difficult teenagers. The film animals are more human, e.g., have marital conflicts, wear suits, and strive for upward mobility. The film will be good in any language, but if you see it in English, you will enjoy the voice-overs by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, John Schwartzmann, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, etc. The music is perfect with renditions by the Beach Boys, Burl Ives, the Rolling Stones, and Mozart. (Becky Tan)

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