Fantastic Mr Fox(2009)
- RatedPG /GenreAdventure, Animation
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Rating: 4 out of 5
There aren't many American film directors born after Quentin Tarantino who can lay indisputable claim to the highfalutin moniker of 'auteur'.
A number, after showing early promise, either get subsumed by the Hollywood machinery, or produce works of erratic quality; Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) come to mind.
But writer-director Wes Anderson, best known for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), an Oscar-nominee for Best Original Screenplay, has miraculously avoided such flubs, despite leveraging on major studio support.
With FantasticMr. Fox - a truly fantastic motion picture in every sense - the 40-year-old Texan has buttressed his reputation as an artistic anomaly in American cinema.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion animated feature, meaning that it uses an antiquated technology whereby figurines are photographed and enlivened frame by frame.
The story, adapted from a children's book of the same title by Roald Dahl, centres on the life of a wily fox (voiced by George Clooney) who has made a career stealing from a trio of farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
One day, Mr. Fox filches one chicken too many, prompting the farmers, led by cider brewer Bean (a malevolent Michael Gambon), to launch a violent and maniacal assault on the Fox family burrow.
It is unnecessary to describe the rest of the action here. The movie is essentially a cat-and-mouse romp, a battle of good-versus-evil that tests both the personal bonds and imaginative powers of a diverse but mildly dysfunctional animal community.
Just as in Dahl's story, a happy ending is a given in the film. But Anderson does more than extend or deepen the source material. He takes the distinct dramatic techniques of his live-action features and re-deploys them in unfamiliar terrain.
As in all his previous films, the world of Fantastic Mr. Fox is at once idiosyncratic and familiar. Characters speak with quirky, deadpan sincerity; their words are filled with depth, though it is difficult to say exactly why.
Craft-wise, Anderson once again favours flat, stage-like compositions and simple camera tracks; he mixes pop melodies from the past with Southern acoustics, creating a post-modern musical pastiche. In sum, he plays an aesthetic game, fills out a universe, and produces a work that is entirely his own.
This is impressive.
In the end, there is no mistaking a Wes Anderson picture, whether it is a coming-of-age comedy (Rushmore, 1998), a pseudo-documentary (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2004) or, in this case, an old-fashioned cartoon.
With Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson adds to his small but highly distinctive body of work. Not everyone will appreciate his films (you can't please everyone), but there is no questioning his uniqueness. The man is an auteur.
About Ken Kwek
Ken Kwek is a playwright and screenwriter. His film credits include The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion (2009) and the forthcoming Kidnapper (2010).