Fantastic Mr Fox (PG)

Film

Family films

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Oct 20 2009

Take a few seconds to think back over Wes Anderson’s films and imagine how a stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ might look and sound if directed by this Euro-leaning, Texan caricaturist. Would it, like ‘The Life Aquatic…’ and ‘Rushmore’, offer a hyper-realistic uniform of sets and costumes? Would it, like ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, explore an eccentric family, with a father figure looming large and relatives at loggerheads? Would the soundtrack include the Rolling Stones? Would there be a role for Bill Murray? Jason Schwartzman? Owen Wilson? Would it be hip? Would the comedy have a gentlemanly sophistication and even be wilfully exclusive? Would it trade in emotions but feel distancing at times?

Of course, as anyone familiar with Anderson’s films will know, the answer to all these questions is yes. So it turns out: this is an animation, but it’s also a Wes Anderson movie. The difference is that it’s light on its feet compared to the heavy machinery of ‘The Life Aquatic…’ or the ponderous comedy of ‘The Darjeeling Limited’. It’s also a kids’ film, which allows Anderson and his gang – is there another director so collegiate? – to have fun. Anderson himself voices a fey estate agent, and the film has the pace of a caper.


What remains to be seen is how audiences, especially children, will react to the jolty, bristling look of stop-motion animation in the age of CGI and digital 3D. The loving, handmade, purist look of the film, reminiscent of Gondry’s ‘The Science of Sleep’, sees towelling as fields, cellophane as water and cotton wool as smoke, and will probably excite adults more than their kids who will be more taken by the constant, active missions of the plot – elements that, in turn, grow a little tedious if you’re a grown-up.

Dahl’s book was a short, sharp affair illustrated in pen and ink by Quentin Blake, whose drawings don’t have much bearing on Anderson’s version: his colour palette takes its cue from the autumnal hues of fox fur. The main characters in Dahl’s book were Mr Fox himself, a dapper chap trying to protect his family from danger, and his foes, three cider-swilling farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach (who directed ‘The Squid and the Whale’) have fleshed out the story so that there are more characters (Willem Dafoe’s jive-talking rat is genius) and the Fox family has more personality: Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep) is the voice of reason to her husband’s impetuousness, while their son Ash (Schwartzman), a needy, moody teen, is pitched against a kung-fu-kicking cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), who comes to stay.

Mr Fox, voiced so appropriately by George Clooney , flits between human behaviour (buying a house, starting a career) and animal instincts (stealing chickens, attacking his food). The push and pull between the tame life and the wild one is the unifying theme. It’s all very transatlantic – the setting and baddies are English; the animals are hip Americans. This is one crafty fox – in every sense.

Read an interview with Anderson here

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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri Oct 23, 2009

Duration:

87 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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LiveReviews|22
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Mavis

perhaps one of my favorite Anderson movie the animation is amazing. perhaps not to those who is used to the typical hollywood 3d effects audience. detail in the set (architecture) and landscape is fantastic so do all the characters. the combination of western cartoon and elements of japanese comic in characters are witty and funny. since I have not read the original children's book, there was no reference to the story line when watching, the movie felt like a typical Anderson story, about family, fatherhood, society, values of life and many more that is only to be able to understood by adults, and can be interpreted differently. As the angel changed from human to fox, it became more playful and also brought up some of the other issues which perhaps would not be easy to portrait or present in the human world context, such as towards the end, the scene the wolf appears. i think it is a masterpiece of animation and also for Wes Anderson, and as a combination of these two it worked out perfectly.

Mavis

perhaps one of my favorite Anderson movie the animation is amazing. perhaps not to those who is used to the typical hollywood 3d effects audience. detail in the set (architecture) and landscape is fantastic so do all the characters. the combination of western cartoon and elements of japanese comic in characters are witty and funny. since I have not read the original children's book, there was no reference to the story line when watching, the movie felt like a typical Anderson story, about family, fatherhood, society, values of life and many more that is only to be able to understood by adults, and can be interpreted differently. As the angel changed from human to fox, it became more playful and also brought up some of the other issues which perhaps would not be easy to portrait or present in the human world context, such as towards the end, the scene the wolf appears. i think it is a masterpiece of animation and also for Wes Anderson, and as a combination of these two it worked out perfectly.

Mark

I think the reason some don't find this movie entertaining is simply because it is very smartly done, and if its subtlies are lost, I can see why one would find it boring. From watching the previews, I thought it was an adult movie, and after watching it, I believe that most of its true humor would be impossible for chldren (and slow adults) to grasp.

ex_timeout_customer

I have just seen this movie on DVD. Thank god I didn’t see it at the cinema. I agree with the opinions of the many customer reviews that this movie is tedious, not remotely entertaining and (Time Out‘s worst crime) child un-friendly. I have been a loyal purchaser of Time Out for around 20 years and having been disappointed over and over again by films that have been reviewed highly, I have had enough. This film has been given 4 stars purely because it is quirky and non-Hollywood. Having said that - in one respect the movie is extremely Hollywood: the goodies are American and the baddies are English. I wonder if this time honoured Hollywood tradition would have been forgiven by Dave - Middle Class Film Snob - Calhoun if James Cameron had done the same thing? At least in Geoff Andrews’ day some of his team liked entertaining films.

Christian

I am a big wes fan and i have to say this film is craftmanship of the highest order and should get an oscar for the animation. Unfortunately the story seems to fit mr anderson too much and felt predictable. Wes will be a great director one day.......when he suddenly does the unexpected i will leap for joy. Qudos for the charm, but move on please wes!!!!

Fabrizio

Told you so... Pure genius. Dialogues, characters, stop motion, trains and all!!! And both Mr and Mrs Fox are mildly sexy ;-)

Fabrizio

Told you so... Pure genius. Dialogues, characters, stop motion, trains and all!!! And both Mr and Mrs Fox are mildly sexy ;-)

Debbie

Hi Peter - the thing is, I don't think the farmers are supposed to be villains - just humans outwitted by fantastic Mr Fox. Interestingly the day after seeing the film my 5 year old re-enacted the very scene I was referring to, which was a bit of a shock.

Peter

@ Debbie - I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the movie but I'm a bit confused that you expect movie villains to be good role models for your kids.

Peter

@ Debbie - I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the movie but I'm a bit confused that you expect movie villains to be good role models for your kids.

another Debbie

Just home from seeing this, and have come online to try to understand how anyone might have enjoyed any of it. I hadn't previously read any reviews - I'd been abroad a lot recently, didn't know it was a Wes Anderson, haven't read the book, didn't know who was doing the voiceovers, didn't know it was Jarvis Cocker singing till he spoke. I was just seeing what I'd heard was a decent film on a wet afternoon. Two hours of our lives and twelve quid we'll never have again. I do regret not leaving at the start. The main character is completely charmless. The colour palette is depressing. The stopmotion animation is irrelevant as the movement is cartoonish, particularly in scenes where all the characters move. The dialogue is tiresome and up itself. The music is brash and adds nothing. No-one in the cinema (a mixed audience) reacted at any time to anything that happened on the screen. I'm convinced that reviewers see this primarily as a Wes A film and judge it on that premise; so many of the reviews start with a synopsis of his previous work instead of judging it on its merits. I wish this system allowed us to give no stars, or a minus would be nice. Wes Anderson has made the worst film I've ever seen.

Sarah W

As a big fan of Roald Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr Fox' book, I was appalled at the storyline and quality of this film. The plot is loosely set around the story in the book but almost nothing is how it should be, apart from digging tunnels under farms. The film is like an adult film just with animated animals (with failing jobs, lies and 'cussing', and my children were horrified by several things: the way Mr and Mrs Fox argue (not in the book, they call each other darling), Mrs Fox slaps Mr Fox around the face and leaves a scratch, Rat is cast as an Italian mobster and has a flick-knife - taunting Mr Fox that Mrs Fox used to be the local 'tart', Mr Fox is clearly disappointed in his (only) son and constantly favours his cousin who comes to stay... (Mr Fox has four children in the book and adores them all)... need I go on? None of this was appropriate behaviour for children to be watching, and none of it in the book! I'm only kicking myself that I sat through the whole film (hoping it would improve?!?) as I regret putting my two children through the whole experience. Just read the book and forget the film!

usman khawaja

it put me to sleep -and my kids liked the popcorn better -so better go to tesco and buy a ten pack than watch this misery

Debbie

If you loved reading - or even better, listening to - Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox ... I’m sorry to say you'll deplore this film. It's not just the messing around with the plot that's deeply disappointing: some adaptation is only to be expected in creating a full length feature film from a short novel. What really irks is the impoverished re-characterisation. Gone is Dahl's wily Mr Fox, whose cunning serves the basic needs of his family and community, to be replaced by a (very Hollywood) selfishly ambitious, and not particularly likeable creature. The new Mrs Fox bears little of the charming forbearance of the original, but has been redrawn as a more predictably contemporary archetype. Badger is a paler-than-pale shadow of Dahl's endearing creation. Rat is more of a street gangster than the hilarious, boozy imbiber of cider that the author so clearly revelled in. The invention of the two young cousins Ash and Kristoffersen supports the sickeningly, condescendingly and typically Hollywood motif that if you are true to who you really are (warts and all), you will win through. (Personally, I think there are times when we'd do better to try removing the warts). There is the perennial Hollywood display of what I suppose is considered passionate anger, in the form of Farmer Bean having a grown-up tantrum, during which we are obliged to watch him at length smashing up his caravan - great role modelling for children! No doubt the justification would be that he too is being true to his ego and his mood (Dahl would have been a lot more subtle). Most mystifyingly, the dialogue throughout is clogged up with the persistent use of the word 'cuss/cussed' ... ??? !!! Presumably to indicate that the characters are swearing, without actually offending our ears in the process (which begs an interesting debate about language and meaning, but I won't go into that). This distracting 'cuss' word even appears as graffiti at one point – am I supposed to find that funny? - sorry, but is was just boring. Oh, and by the way, as usual with this type of big-budget children’s film, the goodies all have American accents, and the baddies have English accents. This was supposed to be an end-of-half-term treat for our two boys. Suffice to say the five year old dragged me out before the film ended, and I was glad to have an excuse to leave (I have only ever left one film before the end in 30 years of cinema-going). Our seven year old was bored. I did not see my husband smile once during the film. We all agreed it had been a waste of time and money and couldn’t wait to get home to eradicate these poor imitations of Dahl’s much-loved characters in our minds by listening again to our wonderful recording of the author reading his own original version of the story. The verdict - save your money (and the petrol) - order the audiobook and curl up with your family on the sofa for a far superior experience.

dontgetoutmuchanymore

i took my just 6 year old to see this film - a story we have read to her at home - and we both really enjoyed it. she wasn't bored. the stop motion animation was great. loved the little cameo from jarvis cocker. the actors-voiceovers were mostly american but i thought that worked, eg George Clooney playing mr fox with shades of his oceans 11 character. recommended

Paul

I loved the book and I wasn't expecting a Hollywood adaptation to be anything like it. I wasn't disappointed. From the first scene of Mr Fox standing on the hill listening to an American wartime flag-waving anthem I could tell things were heading south. The best thing about this movie is the stop motion animation, It's great to see movies being made this way but the additions to the story line and the dialogue really let the movie down. The dialogue was the worst part of all. It gave the movie an air of being confused as to whether it was for kids or adults. Certainly the kids around my daughter and I seemed at first confused and eventually bored by what was going on. When I asked my daughter what she thought about the movie she replied 'We should have seen the other one'. I couldn't have agreed more. If you do want to see this movie I'd suggest seeing it at the Odeon during one of their £2 adults go free pocket money screenings.

flix

Stop motion takes so darn long to produce, so the temptation is to reuse successful takes - over and over again - and there's plenty of repeat shots in this movie. It really should be a 30 minute short. George C's voice for Mr Fox is superb, shakes of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and stopped me walking out. The kids in the movie house were bored so were the parents - the film failed to generate a school holiday buzz of the Ghostbusters kind.