09 March 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox


Voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
Written by Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Based on the book by Ronald Dahl
Directed by Wes Anderson
Release: 13 November 2009
Regency Enterprises, 87 mins., Rated PG

Plot: A family of foxes relocate to a tree to call home and live a happy family life, but Mr. Fox can't control his dangerous impulses and raids nearby factories which get the attention of their owners, who want retribution.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is simply fantastic. There's very few animated movies in the last few years (especially 2009) that left me feeling like I saw something completely original, fresh, and completely worthwhile. Eh, let me back up a bit: the animation world has been taken over by Pixar and DreamWorks, the two of them fueding as to how many completely digital productions they can chum out a year. Pixar is nice enough to do one a year, and each and every year, they're looked at with pride and admiration by the public, and deservedly so. The guys at Pixar strive to put characters and story first (in that order), all at the same time delivering the goods in the digital animation department and the LOL-area of theater going. DreamWorks tries to imitate that same sense of strong character and narrative, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but their animation is a little dodgy (Kung Fu Panda being the rare exception), and doesn't hold a candle to Pixar. What I'm trying to get at, is that it's been a long while since the theater was graced with a type of animation style that took me off guard, and eventually had me fall in love with it.

Eh, never-mind, new approach: there has been such a surge of computer animated movies that it's refreshing to go back to the old days - the 'roots', so to speak - but be presented with something that feels brand spankin' new and as fun as anything you've seen the past decade.

Let me also back up some more: the entire movie is fantastic. The voice actors are splendid and I couldn't possibly imagine anyone else filling these roles, the screenplay is top-notch, the pacing of the film is sublime, and the soundtrack is some of the grooviest music since (500) Days of Summer [which I know doesn't sound too long, but considering that studios try to chum out a 'quirky' movie with 'quirky' songs every other week...yeah, it's an accomplishment].

The style is stop-motion animation, which I fondly recall used terrifically in Chicken Run (by DreamWorks in one of their rare brilliance), and although it's nothing new to the cinemas, there's something so very unique about this film's style. It could be the level of detail in each and every animal, but that's not the whole story - I think it's the animation itself, the odd movement of all the characters, the sort of deliberate proclamation that 'hey, I'm a cartoon!' that works so well. There's also some fantastic sense of style during burrowing sequences - when Mr. Fox and his family chum their way through the soil to get away from some bad guys, or invade some factory. Oh, and the giant 'X' in characters' eyes that represent bewilderment, etc., etc - fantastic. Before I go on babbling about something I can't really describe, I'll just leave it at this: the animation style if unique, mesmerizing, and I'm pretty sure I was smiling watching its awesomeness onscreen.

Equally as awesome is the script. First and foremost, I loved how each and every character, when they want to just lash out with vulgarity, just say the word 'cuss.' Secondly, I loved the family dynamic. Each and every character had their own story, their own thing, and none of them were ever made second fiddle, or just stick figure characters. It almost felt like Anderson captured this family on film, and we're barging in on their disagreements (I recognize this phraseology is used quite often, but this is the first time I've really felt it applies). Mr. Fox and his weakness for danger, the rivalry between Ash and Kristofferson (his mom's cousin), Felicity's anger towards Mr. Fox, Bean's security guard Rat (surprise voice guest star of Willem Dafoe) who comes across as a John Travolta Greaser, and all the factory owner's single-mindedness to find and kill the fox family...all the characters have motives, have their own voice, and is damn well entertaining.

Compliment a good movie with a 'Must Buy Immediately' soundtrack and a phenomenal voice line-up, you got the makings of a great, fun, family/adult-friendly movie. It's one of those rare films that's 'quirky' without outrage comparing their film to a 'mandatory quirkyness' meter, having it's own voice, etc., etc. Fantastic Mr. Fox was a lot of fun, and boasts a great script with some pretty stellar animation. In my opinion, better than Up, and is a definite DVD/Blu-Ray purchase.

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