November 30, 2009
To go along with “Television Rules The Nation”, I’m now going to start doing some film reviews under the name “I saw a film today, oh boy”. Starting….. now.
I’m a self-proclaimed Wes Anderson fanatic. When I first saw Rushmore in my mid-teens, it was a revelation for me and since then I’ve been fully captivated by all of his films, even his somewhat less-appreciated recent works like Darjeeling Limited and Life Aquatic. I have a hard time staying unbiased when I watch his movies, because there’s so much that I enjoy about what he does. The whimsical idiosyncrasies of the characters, the incredibly detailed look and feel of the worlds he creates, the hilarious witty dialogue, and the magnificent soundtracks all speak to me more than any other filmmaker. Nevertheless, I feel confident in saying that Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson’s best work since Royal Tenenbaums, and line-for-line it may be his funniest film to date.
A couple weeks ago, I read the Rolald Dahl book on which the movie is based for the first time. While it’s certainly an enjoyable read, it was hard to see at that point how it could be made into a full length movie. The most developed characters in the book are actually the three farmers and the story is very simple and straightforward. Wes Anderson smartly used the book as just the middle third of the movie creating an entirely new beginning and ending and expanding the cast of characters significantly. I was also afraid initially that since this film is animated, an adaption, and a PG-rated, that it would lose much of the Wes Anderson’s signature style that I’ve grown to love so much. It turns out that this is not the case whatsoever. You still have well-developed characters with all the expected quirks; outstanding visuals and attention to detail; the dialogue is excellent, calling it the most quotable movie of the year would probably be an understatement (“Applejuice flood!”), and the soundtrack includes three Beach Boys songs. What more could you ask for? The only slight qualm that I have is that there is no trademark slow-motion shot at the end, but as perfect as the ending is, it didn’t need it.
One of the interesting things I found with the film was that some of the traits from characters in his previous films seemed to be supplanted into the cast. Fantastic Mr. Fox (voiced impeccably by George Clooney) has much of Royal Tenebaum’s charm, cockiness, and family-neglectfulness. Ash Fox, played by Jason Schwartzman, seems to mirror another Schwartzmann character, Max Fischer, in his social awkwardness and quixotic ambitions. Mrs. Fox links up best with Eleanor Zissou although she shares similarities with many of Anjelica Huston’s roles. The movie is filled with hugely memorable secondary characters that provide many of the film’s funniest moments. My favorite was Kylie the Opposom, voiced by Wally Wolodarsky (who played Brendan in Darjeeling Limited and wrote the classic Simpsons episode, “Last Exit to Springfield”).
All of this to say,Fantastic Mr. Fox is a brilliant cussin’ success on all accounts. I can almost guarantee if you you’re even a borderline fan of Wes Anderson, you will love this. Go see it and bring the family along with you. Download the film’s opening and closing song below.