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Movie Review: FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)

by Christopher Beaubien • December 10, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

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Stuffed and Moving

Do you feel your greatest talents are being squandered? Like there is no demand for your gifts and all you can do is struggle with jobs you should never have had to perform? At the end of the day, your real work lingers in a foggy distance, incomplete. Time passes quickly. You feel drained, stuck in a hole underground, looking out to make your mark and redeem yourself. This is how Mr. Fox feels. In this disarmingly charming (and quotable) film by Wes Anderson, as the fable goes, Mr. Fox risks the lives of others to use his talent for stealing chickens.

For a couple of years (twelve fox years), Mr. Fox has been married to the love of his life, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and father to their prepubescent son Ash (Jason Schwartzman). To do this, Mr. Fox swore never again to risk his life stealing food from the murderous farmers who rule the land. His modest income as an opinion columnist — another detail not of, yet worthy of Roald Dahl — doesn’t stop Mr. Fox’s ambitions of moving from his modest foxhole underground to live in a more upscale neighbourhood — a large, healthy tree. Because working for a newspaper lacks the thrill of chicken burglary, Mr. Fox jumps off the thieving wagon when he finds a new partner in crime in Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), a soft-spoken, pudgy — but gutsy — little possum.

Cocksure Mr. Fox is forever young — cocky and sure of his invincibility — and takes everything for granted. While on a crime spree, he shows more interest in how the latest fox trap works than his own safety. Brimming with confidence, Mr. Fox tends to hog the spotlight. Watch him turn the attention back to him during a toast over a sumptuous banquet. Part of the fun is committing his forbidden theft under his wife’s nose and then watching her enjoy his catch.

He doesn’t give her powers of observation much credit as he stores his loot in plain sight — not to demean her on purpose, mind you — he’s just full of himself to the point of obliviousness. Mr. Fox shares a slyness — minus the malevolence — with Mr. Grinch. He’s so crooked that he could straighten a hill. Oh, and he loves calling his schemes “Master Plans”!

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Wes Anderson is as crazy as a MR. FOX

by Christopher Beaubien • May 04, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

wesandersonWes Anderson, the director of Bottle Rocket (1996), the classic Rushmore (1998) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), will helm the Fox Animation production based on the Roald Dahl novella The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The script has been adapted by Anderson and Noah Baumbach (Kicking and Screaming, 1995, The Squid and the Whale, 2005), who both collaborated on the screenplay of Anderson’s own The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) — “I’ve never seen a bond company stooge stick his neck out like that.”

The stop-motion animated film will closely observe the character designs of the illustrations by Donald Chaffin for the book released in 1970. Class act Scott Rudin, who has produced Mother (1996), The Truman Show (1998), The Hours (2002), and No Country for Old Men (2007) among others, will overlook the production.

When asked about the animation in the film, Wes Anderson responded that “(it’s) like The Nightmare Before Christmas (and) those (Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. produced) Christmas specials. These [characters] have fur, so it’s not like claymation (like Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit). The settings will be very natural. We want to use real trees and real sand, but it’s all miniature.”

That’s fantastic news when one remembers those strange and beautiful sea creatures that were rendered with stop-motion by animation director Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach, 1996) for Life Aquatic. Selick was set to co-direct with Anderson in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but left to pursue the direction of Neil Gaiman’s Caroline. Replacing Selick is Mark Gustafson, who has had extensive experience with stop-motion animation in short, experimental films.

mr_foxThe Roald Dahl tale is about a wily fox who outwits a group of farmers out of their produce. Just imagine Max Fischer with orange fur and a tail. Mr. Fox will be voiced by the equally wily George Clooney. There is confirmation that Wes Anderson alumni such as Cate Blanchett, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray (sound the trumpets!), and Anjelica Huston will lend their vocal talents as well.

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