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Vintage Viewings: Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Will Campbell, Guest Writer

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I was bound to break the “only movies from 2005 or earlier” rule, and I think this is an acceptable movie to break it for. Because frankly, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is on a whole different level when it comes to animated movies.

Sure, The Incredibles is always good for a fun Bond-esque superhero tale, and Inside Out is good for a surprisingly melancholy story, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is a truly unique film, and with Wes Anderson’s second venture into the world of animated films, Isle of Dogs, right around the corner, I thought now might be a good time to finally take a look at what makes Mr. Fox so quote-unquote “Fantastic.”

Photo via foxsearchlight.com under Creative Commons

Based on the book by famous children’s author, Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a former thief of poultry, now a journalist for a newspaper. However, Mr. Fox is displeased with his life, wanting to find that excitement again. Disobeying a promise he made to his wife, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), he heads out on an adventure that will land him and the entire animal community in hot water.

The movie is directed by Wes Anderson, creator of Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore, and many more critically acclaimed films, and his signature style of dry, snappy humor is clearly seen all throughout the film. Given a budget of an estimated $40,000,000, Wes Anderson had the money and a vision.

The movie grossed about $46,000,000, making back its budget, but not turning a major profit. But despite that, those who did see the movie were often blown away by it. Sitting at a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, many critics found the movie to be delightful in its difference from other animated films. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post said that the film added “yet another wry, carefully composed bibelot to the cabinet of curios that defines the Anderson oeuvre.”

Photo via tv.avclub.com under Creative Commons

The most interesting part about Fantastic Mr. Fox, for me, is how it truly is an interesting experience for anyone, of any age. There are jokes that only adults will get, while there is plenty of humor still present for the kids to understand. Yet, somehow, it balances these two elements out. There are enough jokes for adults to get a chuckle out of, while enough slapstick is included to keep the kids entertained for the hour and 40-minute runtime.

The animation is superb. Stop-motion itself is already a departure from the average animated film, but the detail packed into every shot, into the models of the characters, the careful planning of the movement to provide characterization. Yet, somehow, the somewhat choppy animation provides a unique feel to the film.

The way the characters move across the screen, especially in the numerous long panning shots that the movie features, is genuine and lively, helped along with backing tracks by Alexandre Desplat, and a few bands who have been included in the score, including The Wellingtons and The Bobby Fuller Four.

Photo via wired.com under Creative Commons

The writing itself is funny, yet dry and snappy, which is Wes Anderson’s signature style. The charisma of the whole screenplay is infectious and full of lots of funny moments that definitely got a few chuckles out of me.

With Isle of Dogs right around the corner, Wes Anderson is hopefully going to innovate again, but for now, Fantastic Mr. Fox remains my favorite Wes Anderson film. A truly special film for both adults and kids, this movie deserves to be watched by all.

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Vintage Viewings: Fantastic Mr. Fox