Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

  • 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.
  • Partially because what preceded it is brilliant.
  • Final Grade: B+

28 thoughts on “Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

    • If you generally like Anderson, I recommend seeing this one. His animation is surprisingly great. As is his dialogue and humor. I don’t think this his best (though Ruth does), but I do think it quite good.

    • I have read it, though not in ages. And so I barely remember it, and can’t say how faithful the film is. I can say the movie is good, and if you generally like Anderson, you will likely find a lot to enjoy. πŸ™‚

    • His older stuff is perhaps a little less quirky, a little more traditional. Which makes it neither better nor worse than the newer stuff. I think you’ll like it a lot.

      For whatever it’s worth, Tenenbaums and Magic Kingdom are my favorite Wes Anderson movies.

  1. Excellent review! I enjoyed this one when I watched it, I thought it was quite a fun watch with decent characters and a good adaption, too. I liked the style and the way it presented itself.

  2. Great review. I do agree that the movie does lack tension because the farmers and animals are not evenly matched. His style does work for this kind of movie and it becomes more of a Wes Anderson picture then a Roald Dahl one, but he adapts the material quite well.

    • Agreed on the nature of the adaptation. That doesn’t bother me, though. The movie is different from the book, and so I’m willing to judge it differently, you know? I think this very good.

    • Bear in mind I love Wes Anderson – he’s one of my favorite directors. If his style doesn’t usually appeal to you, you’re not going to like this one either. If you do like him, you will like this. πŸ™‚

      • I had the same thought when I finally realized this was a Wes Anderson movie (earlier this year). And then I knew how I hadn’t previously seen it: somehow I never figured out Anderson directed this, so I never prioritized it.

        I would call Tenenbaums and Magic Kingdom better than this one. But Mr. Fox might be my third favorite Anderson movie (it’s in a dead heat with Bottle Rocket).

      • Yes there you go, I don’t think I really realized it was his movie. It just didn’t seem like the type of movie I would expect from him.

        Mine would be Tenenbaums and Darjeeling limited!

      • Darjeeling? Interesting. It and Life Aquatic are the two many viewers like the least. (I personally think Darjeeling the second worst of Anderson’s movies, but I also think it underrated by many. I’d give it a B or B-, probably. In my opinion, Wes Anderson has never had a true miss.)

      • I know right I knew after I typed it that it would be questionable. There is something about that movie I really like, the use of the train and the trip to India makes for an interesting background with quirky characters, I think the story is whimsical and the aesthetic and colors of the film make for a beautiful little film. πŸ˜‰

        I can agree on Life Aquatic, that one is my least favorite. Did you like Moonrise Kingdom?

      • Absolutely. Was one of my three favorite from 2012, along with Silver Linings and Safety Not Guaranteed. Did you like Moonrise?

        I won’t argue Darjeeling, really. That’s a pretty good summary of why I think it better than most people do, even if I don’t think it as good as the rest of Anderson’s work.

      • Yes I did like Moonrise it was great. I also loved Silver Linings. I haven’t seen Safety Not Guaranteed but I heard it was good.

        That’s the beauty of Wes Anderson πŸ™‚

      • Amen on Anderson. And Safety Not Guaranteed is definitely worth viewing. It was once streamed on Netflix – not sure if it is still is.

  3. Solid stuff James, I am a huge huge fan of this movie. As you know, gave it top marks since it was visually stunning, humorous and touching consistently throughout. I do agree that the ending loses a little of the wind from its sails but the very final shot of them in the grocery story is just perfect way to go out. Somewhere in the last ten-ish minutes of the film its slack, but then we are left with such a funny and memorable image of the foxes inside a closed supermarket. Just a lovely little movie.

    • Agreed on that final scene and shot. And, basically, on the movie as a whole. I wouldn’t call it perfect, but I’d call it very good.

      And I remember your review. Prior to reading it I didn’t know this was Wes Anderson (not sure how I didn’t know that, actually). Your review is why this jumped so high on my “must watch” list.

      • πŸ˜€ well that’s very good news. Glad I could be of some service. I will admit it caught me off-guard when I learned that he was responsible for this movie. But learning that was way before seeing it. I was surprised to learn he had dealt with animation. Although, a lot of the times his material borders on the animated anyway! πŸ™‚

      • Agreed. I was just as surprised when you told me it was Anderson, but I was also not stunned, per se. It makes a certain sense, actually.

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