Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 23, 2009 @ tonymacklin.net.

When one first reads the cast list of Fantastic Mr. Fox, he assumes it must be a serious heavyweight drama.

The cast is a Who's Who of formidable acting talent: George Clooney. Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Brian Cox, Michael Gambon, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, et al. What a dramatic cast.

However only the cast's voices arrive on screen. Fantastic Mr. Fox is stop-motion animation. But don't despair, the voices are terrific. George Clooney invests Mr. Fox with vibrant personality. And imagine Willem Dafoe as a rat. All the voices have vitality.

The images are their equal. Animation director Mark Gustafson, director of cinematography Tristan Oliver, and a crew of technical wizards have matched the voices to engaging images.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on the book by the late Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), so it is whimsical, intelligent, and offbeat.

It's the story of freewheeling Mr. Fox (Clooney), his family and friends and their conflict with three hostile farmers. Fantastic Mr. Fox is about evolving relationships and their value.

Director/writer Wes Anderson is the unlikely director of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson's films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) usually are esoteric. They often seem mannered and stilted, and at times are relegated to cult status.

But in Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson's vision is more inclusion. He still is self-involved, but this time it doesn't get in the way.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is bustling with film references and catchy music. Anderson makes allusions to directors Tarantino, De Palma, Leone, Hitchcock, Altman, and Chuck Jones. His eclectic musical score includes Burl Ives, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys. This all increases the depth and substance of his the movie.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a smart, droll animated film that may not be for everybody, but it has charm and panache.

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