Monday, August 9, 2010

#35-Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Acclaimed writer/director Wes Anderson brings two new things to his resume with his heading of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The first being that this is his first animated feature, and the second, his first ever time adapting a work to the big screen. He is mostly successful in this new endeavor but it can also easily be said that Fantastic Mr. Fox is Anderson’s weakest career link.

The story of Fox plays out rather simply. Through a series of circumstances Fox decides to buy a new home for his wife and child under a large tree near three very large industrial plants. Fox reverts back to his old ways and decides to start stealing from the farms of the three large corporate heads. When they find out where the Fox lives, they attempt to kill him, but fail and instead decide to dig out the many animals that live there, keying the idea that they must come out for food and water eventually. Fox and the other animals devise a plan to survive, and continue surviving as they dig for their lives.

This was a very brave move on the part of Anderson. Someone who has never directed an animated feature, to simply jump headfirst into the project, which has a dedicated fan-base due to it being based on a famous children’s novel by Roald Dahl. And I was one that was rather skeptical about this idea, until I saw how fantastic the animation came out. This is some of the best stop-motion I’ve ever seen, with some cool little tricks and Anderson styling’s to keep the viewer

"Thats my thing, my catch-phrase"

The film has an incredible voice cast that includes the likes of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson. While I do miss the times when trained voice-actors were hired for animated films, all of the cast does perform rather magnificently, and I was caught off guard by how much I didn’t recognize some of their voices.

With all this being said and done the plot for Fantastic Mr. Fox is incredibly weak. It is clever and fun while it lasts, but it simply cannot sustain the length of the film, which isn’t even an hour and a half. Anderson teamed up with frequent co-writing partner Noah Baumbach once again for this film, and whether it was the source material, or they were severely off their game, I will never know. There are some jokes in here that are used over and over again that get old very quickly. The plot is easily solved and has a decent amount of inconsistencies that sometimes make it hard to sit through. Why there is a manhole directly in the middle of a supermarket is beyond me. The family dynamic is repetitive and completely unoriginal which seems especially odd for Mr. Anderson who’s greatest films revolve around dysfunctional families. A saving grace does come in the form of a few decently clever lines of dialogue, but they certainly can’t completely save the screenplay that had already gone to hell in a neatly lined hand-basket.

The film has the great visual style of the any Wes Anderson flick, and he does greatly directing in a medium that was totally foreign to him. Voice acting is inconceivably unrecognizable from a stellar cast of great performers. The sets were designed incredibly well, with bright colors and interesting tricks that are sure to keep you interested but the films near lack of any emotional hold-up cannot stand near the likes of today’s animated giant Pixar, who continually puts out movies that tug on our heart-stings. The film is a fine rental for a quick watch, or if you have children, but for the most part it is unfortunately something to be skipped.

I Give Fantastic Mr. Fox A:

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