Thursday, December 17, 2009

Man on Film: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Since The Royal Tenenbaums, it has kind of felt like Wes Anderson was treading water. In each film, he seems to have been desperately seeking his father's approval, and each has ultimately drowned in paternal pathos. Even the shine of Anderson's perpetual quirkiness has begun to lose its luster, as his characters have become increasingly unlikeable and decreasingly tethered to a reality anyone in the audience can share.

As the real world has become a less than integral element in Anderson's ouvre, the leap to The Fantastic Mr. Fox makes sense.

Now if one were to assume that since The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a movie for children that there wouldn't be any daddy issues, one would be mistaken. For nearly the entire film, the Jason Schwartzman-voiced Ash begs for his father's attention/approval.

Luckily, since there is a clear break from reality and stop-motion animation is a new medium for Anderson to work within, this doesn't feel as tired as The Darjeeling Limited and (especially) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did.

For the most part, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fun ride. The kiddie flick 'cuss' alternative is amusing for the adult. The farm-robbing hijinx breathe enough life into the film not to bore.
Visually speaking, the stop-motion animation that he first experimented with in The Life Aquatic gets to breathe a full breath, stretch its legs out, and make itself comfortable. Given the time of a feature-length film and the hand of a director who doesn't seem to have a whimsy off-switch, the full breadth of what the stop-motion can do is realized to great effect. That combined with the boisterous agri-capers that the George Clooney-voiced Mr. Fox ventures out on, make for a fun, family-friendly romp.

The one thing I do wonder is whether or not children are going to get this film. I mean, I'm not a kid so personally I don't give a damn whether it works for children, but I doubt that most six-year-olds are going to be drawn into a film in which the character that they would most closely associate themselves with is conniving and whining for a good chunk of the film.

Again, that does not color my view on the film, and I liked it walking out to the car, so I guess that's all that really matters.

Now if only Wes Anderson's father would express some pride in his son's work, so we could all get to see what might happen if he made a film with a different thematic template...

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