Does money actually inhibit creativity? I pondered that as I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, only a week after taking in the bloated and pricey A Christmas Carol. Evidently Christmas Carol cost around five times what Fantastic Mr. Fox did. And yet, Fantastic Mr. Fox is 10 times the film of the Zemeckis effort. Could it be that Wes Anderson was forced to make more hard decisions, had less resources to work with, and thus knocked it right out of the park? The admittedly anecdotal results seem clear, but we'll table that discussion since it's too broad a topic to tackle in what should be Fantastic Mr. Fox's moment in the sun.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delight. Really. Solid for adults, potentially captivating for little people, enjoyable on every level. A "top 10 of the year" caliber of film. You should go see this one. You'd probably like it. What are you waiting for?
I see. You're not sold yet. Fair enough. Let's get into this thing. The story is adapted from a classic children's book by Roald Dahl, he of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) plays a walking, talking, motorcycle-riding fox. He's married, has kids, and holds down a respectable job as a writer. Trouble arises when he decides to pursue his previous vocation: breaking and entering with the intent to burgle from baddies Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. I can't speak to how faithful the process of taking the film from page to screen was, so I could see some grumbling there. It's also a very whimsical tale, and your enjoyment of the work could come down to your feelings for Wes Anderson's style. For instance, if you hated something like Rushmore, then the stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox will probably have a tough time winning you over. I think you're wrong to dislike either one of them -- they are both clever and sublime -- but it's a free country and all.
What really sparkles in Fantastic Mr. Fox is the pacing and dialogue. Anderson's film has its own cadence, and as he draws you into his weird universe you'll realize a couple of things. First off, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the road less traveled in modern cinema: Anderson is attempting something dynamic with each breath of this film, and you can't anticipate what he'll do next. Also, Fantastic Mr. Fox does have a central message, but getting there is the fun part. It's not a traditional narrative in the sense of 1) setup, 2) middle, or 3) culmination; instead the film is stacked with little setups, middle parts, and culminations throughout. The end is a beginning, and, like most great films, the beginning features a culmination. What I'm getting at is that Fantastic Mr. Fox doesn't follow the rules laid out by focus groups and marketing experts. It makes it's own rules, exemplified by the game of "whackball" the movie so colorfully explains.
The look of Fantastic Mr. Fox deserves a whole 'nother review entirely. Stop-motion was used, meaning that every second of the film was painstakingly cobbled together by moving around physical matter. But Fantastic Mr. Fox looks and feels completely fluid. This isn't the Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer you recall from your childhood, it's much more seamless and visually effective. The voice work is also top-notch; evidently Mr. Anderson recorded outside of the studio to attain a more organic and authentic sounding audio track. Whatever the method, it all works, and the 88 minutes fly by. This is a world you want to stay in, with characters you're interested to learn about. Take a child or loved one, make it a date night or a matinee, enjoy the wry humor Wes has gifted you. There's a moment in the film where Mr. Fox mentions that the shortcut actually takes longer than the scenic route, so why not enjoy the view and get ahead? The same could be said of the stylish and bold Fantastic Mr. Fox, a boisterous and magnificent treat.