To me, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the weirdest of Wes Anderson’s movies. For one, it’s an adaptation—though a pretty loose one. And of course it’s animated. Beautifully animated.
Like most Wes Anderson characters, the Foxes are a dysfunctional family. Probably because of the wider audience, though, the dysfunction isn’t quite as heavy. Ash is just “….different.” And of course, Mr. Fox is a typical central Anderson Dysfunctional Conniving Patriarch (ADCP for short). But while Ash may where a cape and his pants tucked into his socks, he isn’t going to shave his head and slit his wrists on camera. And he gets redeemed in the way he always wanted to be: he gets to be an athlete. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is a movie designed to have a real wide appeal—it’s not a children’s movie. It’s a movie for everyone and it doesn’t sacrifice a lot of things that I love about Wes Anderson’s films to make it appropriate for the younger set. Of course, it took me like ten years to realize that Eli Cash is on mescaline, so it’s not that his other films are like slasher/porn flicks.
If I read Fantastic Mr. Fox as a kid, I don’t remember it well. My Roald Dahl Treasury provides only a two-page excerpt. (Although, to be fair, that excerpt tells most of the story.) If you think about it, though, it’s a great story for Anderson to adapt. It’s the literal struggle of his characters to reconcile their happiness with their nature. And, of course, the rogueish ADCP is always a good fixture. (Except Steve Zissou, who I still maintain sucks.)
The rest of the Fox family includes Mrs. Fox (the usual Anjelica Houston subbed for Meryl Streep’s warm-honey voice), and Mr. Fox’s visiting nephew Kirstofferson, who succeeds in every avenue where Ash fails. They adopt a hapless opossum, the landlord Kylie.
I find Bill Murray’s tongue-in-cheek exposition of the three delightfully reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums with a touch of parody. Of course, like The Adventures of Tintin allowed Spielberg to make a motion-capture Indiana Jones without a tired Harrison Ford, so too does Fantastic Mr. Fox seem to give Wes Anderson even more aesthetic control than I thought possible. Maybe it’s just that when one works in an animated medium, the possibilities change, but here I adore the whimsy whereas in Life Aquatic it drove me nuts (of course, so did the characters).
I always approve of the use of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.” The soundtrack here is a hearty mix much like my own bizarre playlists, including classics from the Burl Ives cassette I used to have as a child and even “Love” from Disney’s Robin Hood, my first Fox-Love.
Okay, I fail as a reviewer. I just love this movie too much. It’s not my favorite Anderson movie hands-down—in fact, I rank it in the middle two with Bottle Rocket, below Rushmore and Tenenbaums.
Other things I love:
- The fact that they insert “cuss” for swear words and that everything is notated in fox time is quit enjoyable.
- Rat, who is probably my favorite character.
- That Mr. Fox could be a limitless version of Dignan from Bottle Rocket who wouldn’t ever hit anyone in the face with a screwdriver.
- The digging and also all the “oh yeah they’re animals” scenes that involve lots of snarling.
- In addition to using an actual song from Robin Hood—I assume the only other film whose cast includes anthropomorphized animals—Petey’s folk ballad of Mr. Fox reminded me an awful lot of “The Phony King of England.” AND HOLY CRAP, Little John’s Dancing Crazy Eyes look an awful lot like Kylie’s. COINCIDENCE? I think….probably, yeah.
- The Wolf Scene, which actually almost moves me to tears whenever I see it.
Soundtrack Favorite Pick: “Love” – Nancy Adams (from Disney’s Robin Hood)
I bet you thought I’d have picked “Street Fighting Man,” huh? Well you were wrong! WRONG, I SAY. (Of course, that song rules.)