Hilarious and visually stunning, Fantastic Mr. Fox bears director Wes Anderson’s stamp.
The characters and story are quirky. Chapter headings serve as narrative transitions. Actors deliver their lines in slow, understated drawls, often after having been centered on the screen in intimate close ups. And so forth.
It all works well. Anderson’s unique style suits this animated feature and keeps us interested.
As does a quickly paced plot.
And some truly astonishing animation. Animals’ movements and body characteristics, especially their eyes, make Fantastic Mr. Fox a visual feast.
All of the actors help their director, but the biggest standouts are George Clooney (Mr. Fox), Bill Murray (Badger), Owen Wilson (Coach Skip), Eric Anderson (Kristofferson) and Jason Schwartzman (Ash).
Probably because there are so many quirky characters, none of them, not even Mr. Fox, is written with much depth. On the one hand, limited character development doesn’t reduce the film’s entertainment value. It does, however, limit our emotional investment; since we are not deeply connected to these characters, we don’t feel their sorrows and joys.
The bigger issue, though, is that the animals and farmers are not evenly matched, which means their fight lacks tension. No matter the farmers’ actions, we know Mr. Fox is going to win.
For most of the film, that’s fine, maybe even desirable, because the foxes’ familial conflicts are so interesting.
The problem is that family issues resolve just before the final act, meaning the rest of Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fait accompli, a march to Happy Ending, rather than a suspenseful story anchored by uncertain conflict.
Let me be clear, however, this film’s ending is not bad. It’s just not as good as what came before.