In typical Wes Anderson fashion, the director’s 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox takes a kooky yet endearing approach to a classic children’s novel. The story follows Mr. Fox, a father and husband who has tried to leave behind his free-spirited, wily ways for a peaceful, idealistic lifestyle. Despite the comfortable life he leads, he still feels tempted by his old ways as a chicken stealer. So, when he and his family move into a new tree overlooking the land of the town’s three most notorious farmers, Mr. Fox derives a plan to settle his appetite for the sly ways of his youth. Crafty as he may be, it isn’t long before Mr. Fox is tangled in much more trouble than he anticipated, and all the animals of the town may be in danger if he can’t swallow his pride and change his ways.
Though it is Wes Anderson’s sixth film, alongside those such as The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox is his first animated movie. The film is based on a children’s book of the same title written by the acclaimed British author Roald Dahl in 1970, which Anderson recalls as the first Roald Dahl book he ever owned as a child. His inspiration to retell the story through a film was particularly inspired by the intriguing and endearing character Dahl created in Mr. Fox.
As if Roald Dahl’s original story wasn’t delightful enough, Wes Anderson’s quirky yet heartwarming on-screen depiction adds a whole other dimension to the appeal. The dialogue is pitch perfect, and the personalities and idiosyncrasies of the animated characters give them a presence just as strong as any actors would have in the flesh. The characters are so relatable that they wear off on you-- sometimes I even catch myself mimicking Mr. Fox’s trademark whistle-whistle click-click. Fantastic Mr. Fox is offbeat and overflowing with the witty, unconventional humor that Anderson is best at. Most of all, though, the film’s strength lies in its unexpected dosage of heart.
Sure, sometimes the stop-motion animation thing can be a little creepy. But with strong voice actors like George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson propelling the witty and captivating storyline and dialogue, what could be strange is instead inexplicably charming. The same goes for the mix between human and animal traits that the characters reveal. Anderson creates a careful balance between their tendencies, which dodges any uncomfortable or eerie inclinations and instead adds a captivating realism to the animal characters.
For anyone who grew up treasuring Roald Dahl’s books, Wes Anderson’s wonderfully weird take on the story is a must-see. Anderson’s imaginative portrayal of the classic story is surprisingly satisfying film for children and adults alike. As Mrs. Fox says, “We’re all different. But there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?” The same certainly goes for the film, but in the same way, such is the nature of its charm.