Fantastic Mr. Fox
Whether it’s Darjeeling, Tenenbaums or Life Aquatic, Wes Anderson has always been driven by family, or more specifically parent/child dynamics.
With each movie, the characters’ collective development became progressively more childlike and ultimately tiring to a large extent. Yet by actually crafting a beloved Roald Dahl book into a children’s movie might just have saved his skin, by slyly embracing and subverting that which was becoming the grandiose pink elephant.
Retired squab thief Mr Fox (George Clooney) is unhappy with his lot in life. In spite of his charming home, loving wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) and “interesting” son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), he cannot escape the fact that literally and metaphorically they are living in a whole. With the help of opossum Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), Fox plans one final job to steal from farmers Bean, Bunce and Boggis. Yet doing so will invite such contempt that the lives of all those around them will be endangered.
The subtle decisive in cultures – the americanised animals and the British humans not only allows Anderson to create a real distinction between the two but also implement elements of both comedy traditions seamlessly and to great effect. One element which in the end creates a harmonious juxtaposition if such a thing can exist.
Clooney, Streep and most of the supporting cast take it upon themselves to create interesting and entertaining characters each distinct from the other. Schwartzman however as Fox’s son is lumbered by Anderson’s predisposition for familial examination, supposedly scorned or ignored by his father yet never comes across as anything more than an insolent child through a combination of poor writing and needless passive-aggressiveness in the voice acting. Considering the amount of time given to this subplot in its myriad of forms, it does become tiresome quite quickly and continues to be the same until the final credits roll. Other plot points such as the effect on the married foxes relationship are left unfinished to a certain extent, a new piece of information later highlighting it and it’s ignorance.
Overall however, the animation is done in such a way as to give the proceedings an other-worldly feel yet evoke the purest of emotions. Close-ups and the use of facial animation illustrates just how far the technique has grown since its inception. As such we can both humanize and compartmentalize both sets of characters, furthering the cultural techniques already employed.
Here Anderson has crafted an absurd and original piece whilst maintaining a strong connection to the source material. Dahl would certainly be proud of how his work is seen by modern audiences despite its issues.