The Other Side of Animation 66: Fantastic Mr. Fox Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

With animation becoming more of a big deal in the film industry, I think it would be cool to see some directors known for their live-action dramas, horror, action, romance, and indie films try to tackle animation. I mean, how cool would it be to see QuentinTarantino make an animated action flick? Or how about James Wan make an animated horror film, or the Duffer Brothers make an animated sci-fi film? When I got more into films, I found an early love for Wes Anderson, for his unique stories and characters. It’s why I was amazed to see that he made an animated film based on the book by Roehl Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox. This stop-motion film was released on October 14th, in 2009, to many an animation fan the best year of animation. It received critical acclaim, was nominated for multiple awards, and is easily one of the best book-to-film adaptations of all time. It might have only made $46 mil on a $40 mil budget, but I’ll say this. This might be my favorite movie from 2009. Why? Well, let’s find out.

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The story is about, well, a fox named, well, Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney. He used to be a bird thief, but after an incident with his wife, Felicity Fox, voiced by Meryl Streep, he retires and settles down with Felicity, and has a child named Ash, voiced by Jason Schwartzman. Mr. Fox decides to move his family to a new home, and discovers that there are three farmers. He starts to get those stealing urges back. After doing a couple of heists from the farmers, Mr. Fox ends up getting his entire family and friends in trouble, due to the farmers creating a plan to destroy them. The story also deals with Mr. Fox essentially going through a mid-life crisis, and his son Ash being jealous of his cousin Kristofferson, voiced by Eric Anderson. Can they make it out alive? Will Mr. Fox learn from this horrifying, albeit hilarious situation?

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Right off the bat, when you watch this movie, the imagery is striking. The animation definitely stands out among anything released in 2009. It has an old-fashioned stop-motion style that has characters with actual fur. Normally with stop-motion, they make everything out of the same material, like in Laika or Aardman-made films. However, the stop-motion in this film is very retro in terms of the visuals. A lot of stop-motion used to have characters with actual fur or fur-like material on them, but it’s something you don’t really see a lot of anymore, unless you look at indie projects. Even with its retro look, the animation is smooth, communicative, and it’s an incredibly gorgeous movie. The entire movie screams the fall season, with its mixtures of browns and oranges. It gives off a calm and cool atmosphere where you can feel the leaves falling around you, and a slightly chilly breeze dances in the air. Wes Anderson also gets the characters and the “quirk” perfectly, since you can clearly get the motivations between the characters. Whenever you see indie films that have a personality, you always hope it feels natural, like in Dope or another Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom.  Being quirky doesn’t necessarily mean a good character. You get why Mr. Fox is having a midlife crisis, or how his son is angry that his cousin is more popular, and how the wife is constantly worried about Mr. Fox’s angsty ambitions.

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Even in this world, you never feel like the combination of stop-motion, humans, and bi-pedal animals wearing clothes are distracting. With Wes Anderson’s signature style and personality, it all gels well, due to how down-to-earth the dialogue comes off. Yes it has its moments of indie quirk, but due to how well defined the characters are, it doesn’t come off as gimmicky. It’s a film that anyone and everyone can get into, which is something animated films should strive to be, instead of “oh, we are just making this for the kids, since kids are dumb and don’t know any better” crowd.

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I enjoyed the voice cast. Usually when you see big names in an animated film, it raises concerns of how into it they will be with their characters. Some studios like Blue Sky Studios don’t get why people hate it when there is “celebrity mugging”. Luckily, everyone who is in this movie really put their all into it. I mean, it should be no surprise when you have actors like George Clooney, Bill Murray, and Meryl Streep, but I never once felt like I was taken out of the experience because an actor was just being themselves. The cast was just perfect, and Wes Anderson usually has an eye for who he wants in his movies. You have, of course, the already mentioned George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray, but the rest of the cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Helen McCrory, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, and some cameos from celebrities like Mario Batali. It’s one of the best casts in animated form that I have reviewed. The movie is also very funny, with some great gags and jokes thrown in that the actors pull off perfectly.

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Now then, what would I say is “bad” or “distracting” that may detract from the film itself? Well, nothing major. I don’t really care if some elements of the book were not put into the movie. I’m not one of those people who think that the book is always better than the movie. To me, I look at all movies based on something as a stand-alone experience. If I happen to know the source material, then I’m going to add that into my judgement of the end product.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox is witty, funny, touching, engaging, and overall, enjoyable. It shows how good Wes Anderson can be, and I wish he could do more animated films like this one. If you haven’t checked this film out, you can either get it on DVD, Blu Ray, or even Criterion. If you like stop-motion films with an indie personality, or want a film that will be timeless, you should definitely check this film out. Well, now that we are heading into the holidays, before we head into the Christmas-themed reviews, let’s get into one of my favorites from 2016, The Boy and the Beast. Thanks for reading. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

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