Friday, 1 January 2010


Now Showing
20th Century Fox Films

When Time magazine named The Princess and the Frog the best film of 2009 (see below), they also named Fantastic Mr Fox at #3. Separating the two? Pixar's Up. It is testament to the continuing improvement in the excellence of animated films. So, too, is the realisation that the two (Princess and Mr. Fox) opening today are both superior to any of the live action films which opened last week or will do over the next month.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is perhaps the least polished of the two but is no less enjoyable for that. The stop motion animation employed by director Wes Anderson, his first foray into animation features, adds a level of old school charm. And while it's not as charming as the initial trailer had me believe (damn those trailers!), it's a highly enjoyable film definitely worth catching.

Based on Roald Dahl's book of the same name, the Mr Fox of the title (voiced by George Clooney) is a former chicken thief who turned to the straight life when his wife (Meryl Streep) announced she was with cub. That cub, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), is now an angsty teen (in fox years) and Fox's straight job as a newspaper columnist is no longer that fulfilling, so he decides to pull one last heist (cue Ocean's 11 reference). Make that a three-pronged heist, on local farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

As in all heist films, nothing goes to plan and the farmers respond by firstly trying to blow-up and then dig out Fox and his family. They then decide to starve out the entire animal population. Fox's response? An even more audacious plan.

Wes Anderson keeps all of this action moving at a brisk pace, thanks in part to a fun and eclectic soundtrack. There are minor detours about father-son relations and familial rivalry (Ash is not happy that his seemingly golden child cousin Kristofferson has come to stay) but it never gets heavy. That said, adults are likely to enjoy this film more than the kids.

Unlike the recent Where The Wild Things Are, I had read Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox as a child and loved it. And unlike those people who found Spike Jonze's version of WTWTA too different for their liking, I found Wes Anderson's take on this story both faithful and inventive, and very much his own; that same first trailer revealed Anderson's very distinct style, from dialogue to dapper dress code – you pretty much knew what you were in for. And I, for one, was not disappointed.

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