The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Starring (voices): George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Eric Chase Anderson, Wallace Wolardarsky
Director: Wes Anderson
“You know, foxes live in holes. For a reason.”
“Yes, and no.”
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Clooney) has his own idea of life. Problem for everyone else is, his plan does not match theirs. Mr. Fox fashions himself a high class thief, and at one point, he was a pretty good one. Then he met a girl, Felicity (Streep). Once they found out they were having a cub, he promised to find a different line of work.
Forward 2 years (12 fox years), and this other line was as an columnist for failing newspaper. His column, “Fox About Town,” is not popular enough for his tastes. Living in a comfortable foxhole, he considers himself poor, and his son is somewhat less than a chip off of the old block. Felicity does not, and would prefer he not rock the boat. Mr. Fox has other plans. He buys a house that he cannot afford, complete with an opossum handyman who becomes his stooge. Soon enough, he is back doing what he does best.
Problem is, he does it to three of the meanest farmers around, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The local children sing a song of fearful reverence about the three:
“Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
Those horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were none less equally mean.”
This movie is the best work Wes Anderson has done in a career of subtle comic sketches. Anderson has actually improved on the charming book written by Roald Dahl (author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”). The voice work is only exceeded by the animation. Clooney is pitch perfect as Mr. Fox. The role seems to have been made for his self-satisfied charm. Gambon is delightfully evil as Bean, and his “You wrote a bad song, Petey!” bit echoes my feeling about every British “pop” star ever since John Lennon, complete with the tossing of a lit cigarette.
The interplay between Schwartzman’s misunderstood Ash and his humble, brilliant cousin, Kristofferson is classic passive-aggressive / passive-passive.
I should warn parents that there is a lot of cussing in this movie. Brilliant thing is, the cussing is all variations of the word “cuss.” The movie will require a little bit of an attention span. It is like watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” sans the vulgarity and adult situational humor. Both of my daughters were able to hang with the subtle subtext, for the most part. Those who prefer movies like “G.I. Joe” should not bother.
2009 was a good year for animated fare. “Up” was the second best movie of the year (next to the Star Trek reboot). “The Princess and the Frog” is the best Disney cartoon since “Mulan.” This one fits quite nicely between them. If your kids are a little more capable of hanging with a movie that requires them to think, reward them with this movie.
****1/2 out of *****