Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox - Dare I say it was fantastic?

There are three kinds of people in the world; those who love Wes Anderson, those who hate Wes Anderson and those who have no idea who Wes Anderson is. He’s one of those directors that seem to inspire a certain amount of loyalty in his fans; His fans will typically forgive his lesser films because they know something brilliant is always right around the corner. This was the case with the Darjeeling limited, a film that I enjoyed, but was easily his weakest film. Needless to say I am a fan of Wes Anderson’s work, in fact I don’t think he’s made a film yet that I haven’t at the very least enjoyed on some level. I remember back in the late 90’s watching bottle rocket for the first time (before I was the film junkie you see before you now) and thinking to myself “wow” and I’ve followed that man’s career since.

I want to gush about this film, I want to go on and on about how I loved everything about it, how I loved the cast and the story and the animation, but I’m going to say this first. I knew I must have had some cosmic connection to this film when it started with a limerick, taken from the book, but nonetheless…

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks, So different in looks
Were none the less equally mean.

That says it all right there, it was fate.

The story Begins with Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox (george Clooney and Meryl Streep respectively) in the process of stealing squab from a local farm when Mr. Fox in his infinite curiosity springs a trap. Mrs. Fox declares that she’s pregnant, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The conversation leading up to the trap sets the tone for fox and wife’s relationship. Fox does what he wants while giving the impression that he’s giving you an option, this eventually comes to bite him in his tail (while he still has it). Mrs. Fox asks him to give up thieving and for a good long while he does, but soon they move into a tree directly across from the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean and he gets that itch for one more job and plots a heist on the farms, I won’t give away what happens, but needless to say it’s not as easy going as he suspects and eventually the farmers declare all out war on the fox forcing him and all his ground dwelling comrades into hiding.

Jason Schwartzman plays Ash, fox’s son, who is small for his age and desperately wants to be an athlete like his father was, playing the single most complicated game I have ever seen described. In this character is where we see where the heart of Anderson’s film really is. It’s the awkward dynamic between father and son where the director really seems to shine. Ash’s cousin Krsitofferson (voiced by Wes Anderson’s brother Eric) comes to live with them while his father is healing from double pneumonia and immediately the rivalry begins. Kristofferson is a natural talent, he meditates often and seems to give little effort to anything he’s doing, yet still does it flawlessly. He is both confident, yet sad. You’re reminded on several occasions that his father is sick and even though the father isn’t present you still understand the father/son relationship they have and you feel for him.

The rest of the voice cast is speckled with Anderson regulars and some surprising cameos that if you notice them you’ll chuckle. I didn’t actually notice till I read the credits at the end of the film. I’m not actually very good at picking out voices on animated films; I tend to get sucked into the story, a trait I’m very proud of. But you’ll notice the obvious ones; Bill Murray, George Clooney, Willem Defoe, Owen Wilson…etc. The biggest surprise to the cast that I got the biggest kick out of was Jarvis Cocker (lead singer of the brit band pulp) playing Petey, even performing a tune for the audience, with one of the funniest punch lines in the film or at least I thought so. And a Great little cameo from Mario Batali playing Rabbit, do I even need to mention that Rabbit is the chef? Probably not.

As is expected with a Dahl adaptation there is some wonderful word play used and as I’m not familiar with the source material I can’t say if the credit should go to Dahl or Anderson (probably Dahl), but whenever a character swears instead of simply bleeping it as would simply bring attention to it being a bad word. They simply say “cuss” the first time the audience is introduced to this it took me a second to realize what they were saying, but it soon became a running joke. Even going so far as to show one scene in the town where the word “cuss” is tagged on one of the buildings.

Badger: The cuss you are.
Mr. Fox: The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?
Badger: No, you cussing with me?
Mr. Fox: Don't cussing point at me!
Badger: If you're gonna cuss, you're not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!
Badger: You're not gonna cuss with me!

This is obviously played off as a joke for the adult members of the audience and a few kids may speculate what the word means, but I think once the parents let them know we may even see little kids swearing less because it’s so much fun to say “cuss”!

Fantastic Mr. Fox is just that, fantastic and is deserving of all the praise it’s been receiving, the only warning I would give potential movie goers is this. If you’re not a fan of Wes Anderson or perhaps you’ve never seen his films before, this may not be the one to start with. Watch Rushmore first and if you like it have fun with Mr. Fox. If you know you don’t like his stuff then avoid this one, it’s not going to change your mind, but as for me, I loved it.

Five fantastic foxes out of five

Next up: Armored – fantastic?

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