Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quick Look: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Sure, Fantastic Mr. Fox is animated. Sure, it’s based on a book by Roald Dahl. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t purely a Wes Anderson movie. Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is the latest in what is becoming a long line of typical Wes Anderson protagonists, joining Dignan from Bottle Rocket, Max from Rushmore, Royal from The Royal Tenenbaums, and Zissou from The Life Aquatic as another man who exercises control over a family unit, but whose struggle to reconcile his incredible talents (or perceived talents) with his lifestyle brings his entire unit into crisis. If it sounds like Anderson (and co-writer Noah Baumbach) deviated from Dahl’s slim novel, it is because they did. This is as oddball a family film as Spike Jonze’s and Dave Egger’s Where the Wild Things Are and as distinctive in its visuals. Anderson has created a stop-motion dollhouse world of flat backgrounds and diorama-like sets that have tangibility and specificity in their exquisitely detailed bric-a-brac. Essentially, what Anderson and his team of animators have achieved is the perfect recreation of the Anderson aesthetic, or rather, through the complete control of animation, they have allowed it to be brought to its greatest realization yet. That the story itself, a wildlife-planned heist of sorts that pits forest critters against a trio of vindictive farmers, moves in an uneven pace with dialogue occasionally too precious (like using the word “cuss” as an all-purpose profanity stand-in) almost doesn’t matter. This is a movie worth seeing just to look at, not just in its auteur’s style and its excellent miniature set dressing, but in its incredible character design that makes the animals look like gorgeously designed toys ready to play with.

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