I first saw Fantastic Mr. Fox when it was released in 2009. I have watched it four or five times since. It was my first adventure into the world of Wes Anderson and it remains one of my favorite animated films of all-time. And what a beautiful film it is! Not only is the stop-motion animation excellent, but its makers seem to take pride in their meticulous attention to detail. The movie overflows with gorgeous scenery and fascinating sets. The animation alone is enough reason to see this, but the movie is much more than eye candy.
Mr. Fox also contains one of my favorite soundtracks of any Wes Anderson film. The music of the Beach Boys in particular, is used to perfection; then there is that wonderful scene in which a bluegrass band is huddled around a campfire. When the audience is not listening to great music, their ears are filled with witty dialogue and superb voice-acting. For the most part, Anderson has assembled his usual gang of friends, actors, and actresses here. Bill Mirray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Michael Gambon have now appeared more than once in one of the director’s efforts, but some of the most important roles are given to actors who are new to Anderson’s universe. George Clooney plays the title character and his voice is a great match for the film’s dry sense of humor. Clooney and Schwartzman probably present the most memorable work of the film’s cast; nonetheless all of the actors do statistics work here.
Any Wes Anderson fan can probably detect some familiar themes throughout this story. The father-son relationship is emphasized, as in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic, yet I never felt that Anderson was recycling old material. In general, Fantastic Mr. Fox seems to have everything that I love about the director’s movies without any of the aspects of his other films that I disliked. There have been times that I have felt disconnected from his works because of the difficulty I have had embracing some of his characters. Yet Mr. and Mrs. Fox, Ash, Kristofferson, and Kylie are characters that I could cozy up to in the end; characters that give the film a warmness that I have not found in all of Anderson’s movies.
Wes Anderson’s sixth film is a combination of great artistry and great entertainment. Certain aspects of the story and characters may have similarities to some of Anderson’s live action films, yet the picture stands out, even within the director’s personal filmography. In a world where stop-motion animation is somewhat of a lost art, Fantastic Mr. Fox is wholly original and positively heart-warming. There is nothing quite like it.