Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), the newest film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s famous childrens’ books, is a real breath of fresh air in the world of animated film, and indeed film in general.
Wes Anderson has acted in, directed and written films, short films, screenplays and adverts, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 for Best Original Screenplay with the film The Royal Tenenbaums. He has brought in quite a high quality voice cast including George Clooney (Solaris (2002), Ocean’s Eleven-Thirteen (2001-2007)), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Mamma Mia! (2008)), and smaller roles for Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker and Michael Gambon.
It follows Roald Dahl’s story of Mr Fox (Clooney) and his wife, Mrs Fox (Streep), as they have their first cub and start a family together. Mr Fox has promised to stop his life of risking life and limb to hunt down their daily meals and start a safer occupation.
Mr Fox has an innate urge to keep his ‘wild animal’ instinct, and secretly goes out at night to satisfy his hunting needs. He does this at three farms nearby his new family tree (an actual family tree) which belong to Boggis, Bunce and Bean and eventually the three farmers become so incensed at this cunning fox, they band together to kill him off, using all their resources to do so.
This results in the Fox family, and their neighbouring families (including the Badgers, Rabbits and Moles), digging for their lives in an attempt to escape. It’s a comedic yet emotional tale, quite typical of Dahl’s other famous stories, which involves family values, community and a decent dose of exciting action.
My favourite part, and the bit which makes it a breath of fresh air, is the stop-motion animation. Reminiscent of TV shows Wind in the Willows (1984-87) and, more recently, Robot Chicken (2005-), the animals are wonderfully made, with fur, whiskers and all, clothed in a retro collection of 60s attire. Their movements are both very human, yet also animal like and, also being a touch surreal, create a nice mix of humanity with realism.
The world which the characters live in is simple in style with an orange theme to it, giving a very farm-like and autumnal feel. It’s very similar to the style of The Beatles’ animated music videos, complementing the soundtrack: tracks from The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and an original song from Jarvis Cocker added to an excellent original score from Alexandre Desplat which added to the 60’s feel. I particularly enjoyed the recurring Western showdown motif of the farmers and their cronies.
A controversial part of the script was the use of the word cuss in place of any sort of rude or swear word (for example, “What the cuss?” and “You cuss!”). This meant that it could be shown with a PG rating but, in my opinion, it is just as bad as including swear words: either keep them in with a higher rating or take them out for the kids.
Apart from that, it was a very enjoyable film: funny, exciting and beautiful to watch. I liked the striking juxtaposition of the animals and humans: for example, the animals were often accompanied by classical music, whereas the humans were accompanied by a maybe less civilised folk soundtrack.
Overall, Fantastic Mr Fox is a real feel-good film for all ages: a chance for an hour and a half of escapism into a surreal animal world and a beautifully made animated film, based on a classic novel. I’ll end with my most memorable quote, from Mrs Fox to her son, feeling left out and excluded: “You are strange, so are we all. After all, isn’t that just a little bit fantastic?!”Tweet