Fantastic Mr. Fox (Subtitled) (PG)

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Comedy (2009)
86mins US

Starring: George Clooney, Brian Cox, Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer(s): Noah Baumbach, Wes Anderson
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Mr Fox and his wife Mrs Fox have plenty to keep themselves busy including their son Ash and a visited nephew called Krisofferson. Life is good but Mr Fox cannot completely shy away from his animal instincts and he turns to stealing chickens. His thievery attracts the unwanted attentions of farmers Bunce, Bean and Boggis, who vow to stop the vulpine at all casts.

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LondonNet Film Review
Fantastic Mr. Fox

Hip indie director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited) is an odd fit for Roald Dahl's classic children's story...

Fantastic Mr. Fox. 20th Century FoxThe film-maker certainly brings his offbeat and distinctly adult sensibilities to bear on Fantastic Mr. Fox, creating another portrait of familial dysfunction and miscommunication. Anderson imprints his personality so indelibly on the script, co-written by Noah Baumbach, that it's hard to see children enjoying the film. The simplicity and sweetness of the original story, which ran to less than 100 pages with illustrations from Quentin Blake, becomes obscured by rewrites and additions. Unlike his previous films, Anderson chooses stop-motion animation as his medium here and it works a treat. Visually, the months of painstaking effort have been worthwhile, including fast-paced action sequences of the wily vulpine sneaking around farmyards in search of a tasty treat.

Mr Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is never content with his life, always looking to move up in the world with his long-suffering wife, Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep). He plots a daring raid on the chicken coop only to get caught in a trap. "If we're still alive tomorrow, I want you to find another line of work," seethes Mrs Fox. Two years later, Mr Fox has followed his wife's dictate and is the bread-winner for his family, including a disgruntled son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) who just wants to win the respect of his old man. Tension between the generations flares when nephew Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) comes to stay and puts poor Ash in the shade. Mr Fox cannot completely shy away from his animal instincts, and he turns to stealing from farmers Bunce (Hugo Guinness), Bean (Michael Gambon) and Boggis (Brian Cox), roping in Kristofferson to his hare-brained schemes. Having been humiliated by the fox, the trio lay siege to the trees where the family resides and open fire on Mr Fox, shooting off his bushy tail. Luckily, neighbouring critters including Badger (Bill Murray) rally around Mr Fox in his hour of need to help him elude the pursuers.

Fantastic Mr. Fox. 20th Century FoxFantastic Mr. Fox is a visual triumph, let down slightly by a screenplay that doesn't know to which audience it is trying to appeal. The articulated characters have plenty of personality and there are some neat flourishes like when Mr Fox compliments his wife, "You're practically glowing, maybe it's the lighting", and her head is suddenly illuminated from within. The climactic escape is mind-boggling, leading to another cute gag reminiscent of Wallace and Gromit when Mr Fox races towards Bean's motorcycle and sidecar and drives away in an exact miniature replica hidden behind the hulking machine. The vocal performances from Clooney and Streep lend warmth to their warring couple, with fine support from Schwartzman, Murray and co, who are all regular collaborators on Anderson's films. For its technical ingenuity, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a film you admire and marvel at rather than unreservedly love.

- Sam Cannon

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