More noise than signal

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

I’ve not read the Roald Dahl book this adapts through the medium of stop motion animation, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a loose interpretation. Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, settles down to a quiet life as a newspaper columnist after discovering that his wife Mrs. Fox, voiced by Meryl Streep, is pregnant, giving up a wild life of chicken rustling from evil British farmers.

Years later, the now teenaged son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is struggling to fit in with society and his family, exacerbated by the arrival of his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) to stay while his father recovers, and is seemingly effortlessly better at everything than Ash. Perhaps relatedly, Mr. Fox undergoes something of a mid-life crisis and attempts to recapture his glory days by robbing some chickens from the farms of the evilest British famers of them all, Boggis, Bunce and Bean (Robin Hurlstone, Hugo Guinness and Michael Gambon).

The response is swift and entirely asymmetrical, with Bean in particular out for the blood of Mr. Fox, his family, and every other woodland creature in a ten mile radius, most of whom are voiced by actors we’ve already mentioned, a good few of which in roles so small it must surely speak to Anderson’s likability as a director. Fox and friends (eugh) must fight back against this oppression, while also managing some perhaps surprisingly delicate and subtle relationship dramas, given the overall concept of the piece.

I think I was a little non-plussed on my first viewing of Fantastic Mr. Fox, back in the day, and hadn’t really thought much about it since then. I think in the week since rewatching it I’ve though about pretty much every day, perhaps mainly to work out what in the hell was wrong with me at the time. It’s doing a much better and more believable job of exploring family relationships than The Darjeeling Limited, despite being nominally about foxes.

It’s very funny, and I think does as good a job of being entertaining for kids and adults as anything I can think of (although this is largely based on my inner child, rather than any reports from actual children), and it had a wonderful visual style that’s only not unique because Isle of Dogs is a thing now. One of Anderson’s best.