Fantastic Mr. Fox review

Rarely a Dahl moment…

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Wes Anderson likes clothes. He always has. From Rushmore’s blazers to The Royal Tenenbaums’ trackies and The Darjeeling Limited’s Louis Vuitton…

For his sixth film – a stop-motion adap of a beloved children’s book – he’s decked out mammals in suits, pyjamas and fashion scarves.

Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox came out in 1970. It’s 96-pages long. The film is 90-minutes long. There’s a fox (George Clooney). He’s fantastic. His wife (Meryl Streep) wants him to stop stealing chickens, his son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) wants his love, but the proximity of the Boggis, Bunce and Bean farms and the dexterity of his nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) offer so many opportunities… The farmers get irked, there’s some digging.

Unlike the forthcoming Where The Wild Things Are (feature length, 48-pages long), there is little room for reverie here – Dahl wasn’t one for hallucinogenic introspection – and, as such, the plot feels light for the running time.

Its harshest critics will argue it would have worked as well as an hour-long special on the BBC.Some will even claim the one thing Anderson adds are his famous voice-cast friends (and shouldn’t they be British anyway?)…

But such gripes ignore what makes Fantastic Mr. Fox so unique. It’s hard to think of another director who could so seamlessly move from live action to animation and take his world with him.

From lovely scenes with Ash and Kristofferson to Owen Wilson’s cameo as a PE teacher and, yes, the clothes, this is very much a Wes Anderson film – meticulously created and brimming with the confidence of his previous, self-contained worlds and doing something, y’know, for the kids.

It is entertainment, pure and simple, with enough adult gags (Willem Dafoe’s flick-knifed Rat) to keep the olds amused while kids smile at the Sylvanian Families cuteness. Fantastic Mr. Fox won’t change anybody’s life, but hasn’t its director done that already? Consider this a (painstakingly-crafted) breather.

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