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• Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s trademarked balance of comedy and character study shines through in this stop-motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. I was a pretty big fan of Dahl’s work as a boy, but somehow this fox escaped me. Anderson’s voice cast includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, and his old mainstays Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. Despite the big names the film never feels like a Hollywood product thanks to its distinctly hand-crafted look, which eschews the near-CG perfectionism of recent stop-motion films like Coraline.

From the first trailer I saw, I felt something about it was a bit off. The anthropomorphic animals’ matted fur twitches from the animators’ unseen manipulations, creating the effect of a taxidermist’s nightmare.

This slightly disturbing quality isn’t as much of an issue once you settle into it, but is somewhat cringe-worthy in close-ups. That said, the animators were given free reign to push the boundaries of cartoon physics and speed, resulting in highly energetic scenes.  Unfortunately, the illusion is broken in a few of the film’s scenes due to a lack of fluidity.

The story is a charming one.  When he moves next to the farms of Boggis Bunce and Bean, Mr. Fox can’t help but break a promise to his wife never to steal again.  His escapades don’t go unnoticed by the farmers, who will stop at nothing to take revenge.  Meanwhile, Mr. Fox’s son must deal with an unwanted rival in nearly all aspects of life when his talented taller cousin comes to stay with them.  The farmers go nuts, all hell breaks loose, and soon all the animals in the area become threatened.

Of course, many hilarious hijinks are had throughout, not to mention when Mr. Fox rallies the rest of the animals for one final showdown, winner take all.  More so than most animated films, I feel like this one can be enjoyed more by the adults in the audience than the children (judging from the howls of laughter in the cinema).

It’s a classic, funny tale and great fun to watch.

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