Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) is Fantastic

Through my blog, I do what I can to call attention to movies, TV shows, video games, prop replicas, or other things that I think deserve some additional recognition among the fan community. Most of the things in question are from the genres of horror and sci-fi, but I'm happy to make exceptions to this rule for things that fall outside of these genres. This brings me to the topic of this post, my review of Wes Anderson's stop motion animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on a book by Roald Dahl.

I'm not sure how Fantastic Mr. Fox escaped my attention for so long. I only have a passing familiarity with Anderson's films but since the movie is based on the work of an author who's as popular as Dahl, I'm surprised that it didn't earn a more successful reception. I've read that 20th Century Fox had no idea how to promote this film, so it became the victim of an extremely poor marketing campaign. That shouldn't have happened, because Fantastic Mr. Fox is a witty animated fable that is entertaining for children and adults alike--all without loading its script with pop culture references, casting the most popular movie stars, or clogging its soundtrack with the latest batch of one-hit wonders. Read on for my complete review.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is about the titular Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) who promises his wife Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) that he will stop raiding the local farms for chickens and assume a less risky career for the sake of their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). Yet Mr. Fox decides to pursue one last "big score" before completely retiring from his old ways, which sets in motion a series of events that leads to a near war between Mr. Fox and the local farmers.

Anderson is known for his low-key, quirky humor, and it is surprising how well it complements Dahl's imaginative story. One of film's the running gags is how anthropomorphic the animal characters are and how oblivious the humans are to the animals' complex parallel existence. The animals in Fantastic Mr. Fox don't just talk to each other in English; they also wear clothes, paint landscape pictures, have careers, go to school, play sports, engage in real estate transactions, and so forth. Yet the humans in movie only seem marginally aware of what the animals do, which results in many hilariously absurd situations. Adding to the film's humor is its strong voice cast, which also includes Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson.

What ties everything together into a great movie is the stop motion animation itself. For someone who is not known for animation, Anderson has a keen eye for using stop motion to create characters, environments, and complicated visual gags. The amount of detail in the animation is amazing, and anyone who has an appreciation of stop motion animation should see this film. Even though Fantastic Mr. Fox did poorly at the box office, I'm hoping that it builds enough of a following on home video to convince Anderson to try his hand again at animation. Animation fans would be much worse off if he didn't.

I can't recommend Fantastic Mr. Fox highly enough. It's both a wonderful example of stop motion animation and proof that you don't need studio-mandated gimmicks and market-ready product tie-ins to make an entertaining animated movie that can be appreciated by all ages.


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