My favorite film of 2009 – the Academy Award-nominated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is out on DVD. If you didn’t see it when it was in theaters, or even if you did, this is must-viewing for every movie fan.
From “Matilda” to “James and the Giant Peach” to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, author Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books have adapted well to the big screen. But “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, is the best of them all.
Mr. Fox (great voice work by Clooney) is a newspaper columnist who isn’t happy with his life. He use to steal chickens for a living, but his wife (Streep) made him give that up when she became pregnant with their first child. The couple moved into a hole in a tree not far from the three meanest farmers in the valley – Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
Mr. Fox, wanting to make some extra money, comes-up with a plan for him and his friend Kylie (an opossum) to steal chickens and cider from the farmers. But they get spotted, the farmers want their revenge, and the battle between the animals and the humans IS ON.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is not your typical animated movie. It’s completely done in stop-motion animation. In fact, over 125,000 individual pictures were needed to complete the film. A full days works produced only about 30-seconds of film. And unlike in most stop-motion movies that use clay for their characters and sets, most of the “Mr. Fox” characters are puppets. It’s an amazing accomplishment.
The other thing that sets the movie apart is it’s quirkiness. It’s funny, but not laugh-out-loud funny. There is a lot of dialogue and the script is very clever, but kids and parents who are expecting a typical “taking animals movie” are going to be disappointed.
All of the voice work is superb. Besides Clooney (who is in practically every scene) and Streep, Jason Schwartzman is outstanding as their son, Ash. Murray and Owen Wilson also add their touches to the film.
The plot follows the book (which I recently re-read), but also expands the story with new characters and situations, but they all work.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox is rated PG for some brief animated violence and a few scenes in which characters are smoking. It’s safe for kids of all ages, but it’s not a typical kids animated film, and because of that many kids (and many adults) won’t like it because it’s so off-beat from mainstream Hollywood animated films. But if you’re a fan of Dahl or director Wes Anderson it’s a must see.
On The Official Kid Critic Report Card, “Fantastic Mr. Fox get a B+. It’s a quirky, delightful feast, and the DVD extras only add to the fun. Snatch it up while you can!