Lara’s Solo Review of Fantastic Mr. Fox

30 Nov

I have had a lot riding on Fantastic Mr. Fox for quite some time now. The reason for that is twofold:

  1. The book by Roald Dahl, which the movie is based off of, was my second favorite book (after The Trumpet of the Swan) from when my teacher read it aloud to me in second grade until fourth grade when my interests took a turn away from the cruelty-to-all-adults humor of Dahl to the elementary-gags-and-chaos humor of Sachar. Still, the book has remained one of my favorites (even if not number two) to this very day.
  2. I first read about this movie project in 2004 at the height of my Wes Anderson obsession and simply couldn’t wait for it to be released as Anderson’s next film. And then came waiting, and then came The Darjeeling Limited, and then more waiting. I began to think the film would never be made. And finally, five years later here we are: it has been released, I have watched it, and now I will tell you some of my thoughts. Hold on to your butts (and tails).

The Original Fantastic Mr. Fox

First off I’d like to delve into how the film succeeds as an adaptation from the book.  The story is about a fox, Mr Fox, who steals chickens, ducks, turkeys, and cider from three cruel farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The fox foils the three farmers time and time again until their humiliation leads them to wait outside his hole with plenty of ammunition so that he is unable to escape. After shooting off Mr Fox’s tail and scaring him back into his hole for good, they still are not satisfied and try to dig their way into his home. Mr Fox and his family stay one nervous step ahead of the nasty men, digging fast enough to keep from exposing themselves, but after a couple of days they grow very hungry. So Mr Fox hatches a plan to steal food from under the farmers’ noses and make a feast for his family as well as the neighboring animal families who have had to go into hiding as a result of his reckless behavior. I will say no more because I do not wish to spoil the twist ending.

At only ninety pages that make for a half-hour read, a lot had to be added to the primary story in order for it to work as an 87-minute movie. More characters were added along with side storylines and a different ending, but still the original tone of the book was kept in tact. Anderson not only took inspiration from the book, but also from Dahl’s home and surrounding area in order to better depict the characters and settings. Not only that, but certain descriptions, especially those of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, were taken almost directly from the text.  Even the new ending was based off of an original manuscript that Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach found at Dahl’s house, so despite it’s shift from the published ending I had grown up with, it still very much had the vibe and wit of a Roald Dahl story.

Mr. Fox and friends.

While Fantastic Mr. Fox did a very good job of preserving the Dahl sensibilities, it is still through and through a Wes Anderson film. And while Anderson fans will treasure the strange pauses, yellow Futura titles, brilliantly awkward dialogue, and the Thing-that-the-lead-is-afraid-of-that-turns-out-to-be-beautiful-and-mysterious-when-finally-faced, I’m not really sure it will translate for children.

As in the instance of Where the Wild Things Are, once again we have an art film director using an old aesthetic that is unfamiliar to modern children, to make a children’s-book-turned movie. Already the utilization of an old visual style takes steps towards alienating such a young audience, and both directors then took it even further by not including a storyline or humor that would keep children’s attention. But perhaps it wasn’t meant to be for kids. For despite the use of claymation and lack of cussing (although there is plenty of “cuss”ing), nothing about this movie makes it anything akin to a children’s movie; there are hints that an unexpected pregnancy was the reason of Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s marriage, an extremely egotistical lead character, and jokes about real estate and Latin titles. Now I’m not complaining about any of these elements, as a mostly grown-up-person I considered them amusing and believed they brought an interesting new light to the story, however they are not the matters of a children’s film.

Kristofferson and Ash

Yes, it succeeds as an adaptation, no, it doesn’t for a young audience, and so the final question is: Does the movie work as, well, a movie? Yes. Though it seemed a bit rushed at times, it had tender moments, it was hysterical, the characters were interesting and quirky, and I absolutely loved it. This latest feature will not disappoint any fan of Anderson or Baumbach, as it maintains the pace and wit of their previous films.  Fantastic Mr. Fox may reclaim its rightful place as my second favorite, only this time under the category of Wes Anderson Movies, and trailing behind not a mute swan but a rag tag group of Tenenbaums.

I wish I had a Latin title,


4 Responses to “Lara’s Solo Review of Fantastic Mr. Fox”

  1. Charlie Bucket November 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    I saw it also and loved it. I’m even thinking of paying another 10 (or whatever it costs these days) dollars and seeing it again.

  2. breadtobeeaten December 1, 2009 at 4:50 am #

    Oh delight. If you liked it, I will like it. Now I just have to sit and wait for a copy to turn up in hayastan. I’m glad you saw it. Thank you, from me.

  3. missnostalgic December 1, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    Thanks for the thoughtful review! I always enjoy them.

  4. Michelle Finley May 17, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Awesome review! I still need to see this movie myself. Thanks for the information.

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