11.25.2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox : 4 of 5

I was interested in this stop-motion animated movie from the moment I saw the trailer, and thanks to my pal Melinda I got to see it early at a sneak preview! I was already familiar with the story (I read the book several years ago when I was working my way through all of Roald Dahl's works), but when I started reading the incredibly positive reviews, I got really excited about the film! I'm happy to say that the reviewers were right, because Fantastic Mr. Fox is a wonderful, hilarious, charming and quirky movie that borders on genius. The plot is true to Dahl's story, but director Wes Anderson uses it as a jumping point to make another film in his unmistakable style (I was often reminded of The Royal Tenenbaums). Not only is the stop-motion beautiful and unique, with incredibly detailed characters and sets actually shot at 12 frames per second to increase the jerky, handmade feel, but the staging and camera angles are also fascinating, especially the use of extreme, in-your-face close-ups that switch back and forth between two characters in a conversation. I loved the subtlety of the jokes, helped by skillfully natural dialogue with excellent delivery by George Clooney and the rest of the cast (sometimes with a decidedly British comedy feel), with gags that often pay off later in the story, like the funny "Whack Bat" game that plays a part in the escape finale. There are a million simple details that had the audience roaring, from the idea of an animal real estate agent to the appearance of the skinny fox son brushing his teeth in his underwear (which caused immediate laughter!). Along with the humor, there's even some eloquent dialogue in Mr. Fox's toasts and messages about being true to yourself in his lines about being a "wild animal". The soundtrack is great as well, with unexpected montages set to Beach Boys tunes. As soon as the movie was over, I thought to myself that I could easily watch it again right away, just to enjoy the laughter and wonder of this stop-motion, toy-like world. Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the best animated films of the year, simply because it doesn't try to be!

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