Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Animated Version of Roald Dahl Classic Arrives on DVD

Fantastic Mr. Fox represents a substantial departure for director Wes Anderson from his ordinarily wry fare into an animated adventure ostensibly aimed at kids. Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel of the same name, the film stars George Clooney in the title role with a supporting voice cast featuring Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Jason Schwartzman.
Superficially, the movie looks a lot like Chicken Run (2000), another stop-motion cartoon set on a farm. But that’s where any similarities end because Fantastic Mr. Fox proves to be not nearly as charming, coherent or comedic as that delightful crowd-pleaser.
The plot is only loosely based on the book, and revolves around a chicken thief (Clooney) who tries to go straight after being caught in a trap while burglarizing a hen house. However, missing both the taste of chicken and the excitement of staging daring raids, Fantastic Mr. Fox decides to pull off one last big job before finally retiring for good. So, with the help of Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), an opossum, he hatches an elaborate plan to steal poultry and cider from a trio of neighboring agribusinesses owned by a trio of mean, gun-toting fox-haters: Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon), Walter Boggis (Robin Hurlstone) and Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness).
In the wake of the heist, during which Mr. Fox suffers the indignity of having his tail shot off, the irate farmers resort to desperate measures to catch him. Unfortunately, neither side looks particularly sympathetic in the ensuing, escalating battle of wits. The owners destabilize the local eco-system, excavating fields and flooding foxholes, to flush out the wily predator, while the four-legged perp selfishly endeavors to devour rather than rescue the livestock caged by the corporate conglomerates.
The movie’s glaring absence of a moral compass might be forgivable if it at least elicited a few side-busting belly laughs along the way. Instead, what we have here is a creepy cartoon filled with inappropriate inside jokes that are mostly over the head of the desired tyke demographic, exactly what one would you expect of a claymation vehicle crafted by the cerebral Wes Anderson.

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated PG for action, smoking and slang.
Running time: 88 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Extras: “From Script to Screen,” “Still Life (Puppet Animation)” and “A Beginner's Guide to Whack-Bat” featurettes, plus the theatrical trailer.


someperson said...

Moral compass? Dude, he's a fox. He's not get to set free the chickens, he's gonna eat them. Ever seen foxes in the wild? They don't protest Rupert Murdoch or burn flags, they eat chicken. You're looking too deep, this movie was just great. As for a moral compass––they're animals, not role models. I thought that

Unknown said...

Fantastic Mr Fox is not just "aimed at kids". It is meant to be enjoyable by children and adults alike. To look at it as a film with a "desired tyke demographic" is to take an extremely simplistic view of not just this movie, but animated films as a whole.

But then, only someone with an extremely simplistic view of the subject would say it superficially "looks a lot like Chicken Run". They are both stop motion, but they are not even close to the same style. The animals in Chicken Run did not have fur or feathers. They had more of a clay look to them. I'm not saying that's bad, but it provides a completely different look and feel than the tactile forms employed in Fantastic Mr Fox.

In short, the movie has a lot more depth than this reviewer's simplistic views would indicate.

Anonymous said...

I've gotta say, I hated this movie. And it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why, because there are so many things about it that didn't work for me.

Now, I'm a major fan of animated film. Many of my favorite go-to films are animated (and no, I don't mean predominantly Disney flicks). I love Wallace & Grommit, I sit for hours and watch classic animation and claymation, etc.... So, it isn't the genre that bothered me. I also have watched a fair share of more adult-oriented content, so it wasn't that this movie wasn't hitting the mark for a younger audience. Let me outline what it was (SPOILER ALERT):

1) The storyline wasn't cohesive. Now, when Mr. Fox got caught reneging on his promise, I expected the story to either be a typical redemption story (ie, he stops doing whatever it is he's apologizing for and finds a way to make it right), or to go the totally opposite direction where he defends his decision tooth and nail and we see what comes from that. Instead, Mr. Fox just kind of pussy-foots around the issue, apologizing and promising to change his ways no less than three times, and going back to them at least four. Talk about disorienting.

2) I hated all the characters. Okay, maybe not all. I hated most of the characters, and those I didn't hate (Kristofferson and Mrs. Fox) I simply pitied. It is a very bad sign when your protagonist is completely unlikeable. The bad guys were terrible, as they ought to be. But even Mr. Fox's neighbors are all despicable. I can't relate with any of these characters, and I can't find any reason I wanted to finish the story to the end other than to say I'd finished it.

3) There were too many confusing subplots. Wait, the rat is sexually attracted to Mrs. Fox? Was he going to drag her off to have his way with her before Mr. Fox killed him? Because that's what it seemed like to me. Ew! And why is kid fox spitting all the time? Why did we need the teen-angst-crush subplot? Why were we watching some incomprehensible game? Why did we need to know the rules for it? Why did one of the dogs need to be rabid? Sometimes, too many details cloud the overall story because the audience doesn't know which ones are important and it all becomes white noise (which is what happened here). Also, what is with that stupid whistle-click-click noise? I know it's supposed to be a trademark sound or whatever, but it's annoying as cuss!

4) And that's another thing! Don't pretend this movie is kid-safe by just replacing the cuss words with the word cuss. It takes me out of the story every time... Which I'd almost be glad for, except that it seemed like this movie dragged on FOREVER.

5) And to the person who said a moral compass doesn't matter... Yes, it does. Maybe Mr. Fox is a psychopath who likes to cause others pain. Maybe he's a reformed addict (which kind of seemed like what the movie was getting at) who knows up from down but forgets when he's getting his "fix." Maybe he's a tortured soul who knows right from wrong and gets torn up about what he's doing. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE HIS COMPASS LEADS, but he MUST have one. This guy seemed like a complete and utter wreck to me, and so did all his family members and friends. Especially at the end when, after they'd all barely escaped death, they don't decide to cut their losses and try and live the rest of their lives in peace the way they had been until Mr. Fox flubbed it up. Oh no, they're all happy as clams stealing from THE SAME PEOPLE THAT JUST ALMOST EXTERMINATED THEM. Yes, that sounds like a great idea. The only thing I could think about the ending was, "looks like they're fishing for a sequel." Cheap.

All in all, I am floored that this movie ever got more than mediocre reviews.

Unknown said...

Huehuehue the person with the name that looks like a Chinese CP circle webcode says that they can't believe how EVERY CRITIC EVER gave the movie a positive review and how people everywhere like it.

Remember, its not you that's a strange weirdo, its everyone else on the planet.