Overview/Rating/Length: Wes Anderson brings his unique brand to this adaptation of the book by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl. 20th Century Fox; Rated PG; 87 Minutes.
I Don’t Want to Live in a Hole Any More, and I’m Going to Do Something About It: The most common and longstanding criticism against director Wes Anderson is his predictable approach to storytelling. Many see weak filmmaking in his trademark symmetrical stage arrangements, muted character emotions with their disconnected dialogue, and his certain pastel yellow and red screen saturation. Detractors like to label it cartoonish, likening the director to an adolescent with a dollhouse. Well, funny story…
A Chicken in Its Teeth: Fantastic Mr. Fox works like a thumbed nose in the direction of those critics. It turns out that cartoons and dolls (or at least live action animation) have permitted the best Wes Anderson movie yet. The movie offers all the staples— the quirky left-field humor, the dysfunctional family side plots, and the reliable cast of acting talent. Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and a slew of other Anderson regulars lend their vocal talent. George Clooney takes the helm as the titular character, somehow lending his unique brand of handsome and dashing charm to a small forest animal. But the source material and format also permit appealing elements that are new to Anderson’s résumé: namely a fully-realized heist flick and a sense of delightful adventure. The characters here seem more realized than any he’s ever worked with and the humor is as sharp as any modern comedy. The one-liners connect rapidly and move Anderson from his normal chuckles and smirks to deep belly laughs.
But At Least They’ve Got Stars on Them: One can’t help but be impressed by the attention paid to ensure that these animals came across as animals. From the naturalism of their eating style to the way the screen exhibits each individual strand of fur, this movie sets itself apart from similar works but stands tall with the best animated films.
But It’s Cool to the Paw: I’m admittedly in a love/hate relationship with Anderson’s filmography. I’m bored to tears by his oft-thought masterpiece The Royal Tenenbaums, can’t make it through Bottle Rocket, but thoroughly enjoyed Darjeeling Limited, and The Life Aquatic is one of my all-time favorite movies. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon realization that he was applying his tired trends to animation and one of my cherished childhood authors. But what I got was my favorite cussing movie from all of 2009.
By; D. Shreve, Jr.