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21st-century fox
With warm textures, ‘Mr. Fox’ is fantastic

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Rated:PG
Studio:20th Century Fox Animation
Director:Scott Rudin
Cast:George Clooney and Cate Blanchett
Genre:Animation
Our Rating:

Over the course of five films, Wes Anderson has displayed a fondness for rascals, so for him to make the transition to rodents in his sixth doesn’t seem too far-fetched. In fact, despite being based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox adheres far more to Anderson’s trademark idiosyncrasies than seems possible.

For starters, his use of old-school stop-motion animation only furthers the argument that his work to date has resembled elaborate dioramas, and if ever a film of his has benefited from such loving attention to detail, it’s this one. The autumnal environments will take you back to a simpler time and place; the hand-crafted platinum card will make you believe that opossum has kept up his credit rating.

At its simplest, Fox boasts the talking animals–versus–big bad farmers scenario played out time and time again, but the fact that Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is going through a midlife crisis factors significantly into why Fox, his family and his neighbors are facing the ire of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, villains respectively fat, short and lean.

Once the missus becomes preggers, Mr. Fox agrees to lay off the poultry-poaching in favor of a newspaper career (talk about an endangered species!). But now that his son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), is old enough to be a troubled teen, Mr. Fox thinks that he’s overdue for a change and relocates the clan aboveground. It’s a move that makes it easier for him to sneak off with reluctant partner Kylie (the aforementioned opossum, voiced by Wally Wolodarsky and prone to spacing out) and steal some chickens again, much to the chagrin of his wife (Meryl Streep), his lawyer (Bill Murray) and those local farmers.

Take away the animal angle and what remains are Anderson’s dysfunctional pals learning how to function together, if not with the rest of the world: same Anderson as always. Here Mr. Fox is as suave as, well, Mr. Clooney, while as inherently selfish as Royal Tenenbaum, enough so that those closest to him cuss him out over his sneaky deeds. (In an amusing family-friendly gambit, each and every expletive has been replaced with the word “cuss.”)

Royal, however, never considered his animal instincts against his public image the way Mr. Fox must. Mr. Fox is often regarded as “fantastic” with spoken “quote-unquotes,” and that’s what makes Fantastic Mr. Fox such an interesting endeavor. Its look conjures up warm fuzzies, while its talk elicits cool, familiar neuroses, an altogether unique manner of anthropomorphosis.

That look has helped bridge the growing disconnect between the emotional and the eccentric in Anderson’s films since The Royal Tenenbaums. Every frame of Fox has been considered and crafted with exceptional care by one man and one dedicated team of animators, as if Anderson had realized that life is too short to cuss it all up. He need not worry. This is about as quote-unquote fantastic as it gets.

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