Week #3: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Now we are off to the zany dream world of Wes Anderson, full of whimsy and dead-pan humor. Anderson’s films are so distinct that it can feel alienating if you don’t fully jump on board. The five movies I’ve seen prior to Fantastic Mr. Fox I’ve enjoyed but haven’t gone back to revisit. I think for Mr. Fox things will be different, as I loved this movie and can’t wait to show my daughter. 

Now let me introduce to you Mr. Fox. He is the best at stealing chickens and loves the rush of escaping triumphantly. When Mr. Fox’s wife, Felicity, becomes pregnant; she puts her foot down, and makes Fox promise he’ll stop stealing and get a safer job. The start is a familiar storyline, a father who gives up something he loves when his child is born and never completely gets over it. And then the mid-life crisis hits. 

Instead of buying a cherry red convertible, Mr. Fox wants to execute ‘one last hit’. It begins with Fox buying a tree house (out of his means) that has a view of three major businesses: Boggis, Bunce, Bean. The first two are in the meat game and Bean, the meanest of them all, makes the best hard apple cider. 

The temptation is too great and along with his reluctant friend, Kylie the opossum, Mr. Fox goes on a spree. But this spree not only has dire consequences for his family but for his community as well. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a combination of the best qualities of a Wes Anderson film. All the tropes and markers of his films that can be a little too much on their own come together beautifully in the world of Mr. Fox. And casting George Clooney as Mr. Fox was the ‘cherry on the top’ choice, since this is pretty much animated Ocean’s Eleven.

The painstaking work of the craft involved is remarkable. The stop-motion does take the brain a few minutes to adjust to but once it does I found the experience to be magical, just like a children’s fantasy movie should be. There’s a few breathtaking shots that clued me into why this was chosen for the Criterion. 

What is even better is that the technical achievements here support a worthwhile story. Fox and his family are the heart of the movie, and watching a father who’s failed his family try to redeem himself is an important tale for kids. 

It’s not common to find a morally ambiguous character like Mr. Fox as the protagonist for a children’s movie. There’s some intense scenes, but overall I think this would be a great movie for mature kiddos. The ending, for me, was bittersweet, which is also refreshing to see in a family movie. 

Since it’s a children’s story it is pretty straightforward and I don’t want to give much away, but I’ll give you one last reason to check it out:

Willem Dafoe plays a rat named Rat.

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