Sometimes I think I'm the only indie movie fan in the world who did not love Rushmore. And I was annoyed with at least 46 percent of The Darjeeling Limited, a movie whose bright colors I remember better than its name, which I always have to look up on IMDb. But apparently The Royal Tenenbaums wasn't a fluke and Wes Anderson and I do get along well after all, because Fantastic Mr. Fox may very well end up being my favorite movie this year (to speak in movie critic terms for a minute there).
Like Coraline, another stop-motion animated movie I loved, Mr. Fox creates a complete world of whimsical details, from genetically engineered apples speckled with gold stars to the tighty-whitey underpants worn by Mr. Fox's 12-fox-years-old son. It appears to take place in the late seventies, a palette of earth tones, corduroy and chunky technology. The latter fits perfectly with the movie's celebration of the idiosyncratic. This is a world where foxes wear corduroy jackets and hire lawyers, but also break chickens' necks with their teeth.
Mr. Fox (appropriately voiced by George Clooney) is a charmer and a daredevil, much to the frustration of his wife. His son Ash seems to have inherited his fearlessness, but not his smooth talent. His nephew Kristofferson has the skills (which win Mr. Fox's admiration and Ash's envy) but would rather meditate than let loose one of his killer karate chops.
These family dynamics come to a head when the Foxes move to a tree house (there is discussion of woodland mortgages) across from three big farms known for their mean owners. Mr. Fox can't resist the temptation to steal from them--the ultimate challenge--which incurs the wrath of both the farmers and his fellow forest creatures.
Since Mr. Fox, over the course of several inspirational toasts, waxes philosophical about the combined prowess of wild animals and the crappy world of fake food they're forced to live in (but can survive nonetheless), I tried reading it as an allegory about nature vs. the food industry. But AK was dubious, and I think she's probably right. These thoughts may have crossed Wes Anderson and co-screenwriter Noah Bambauch's minds, but I think they were most interested in building clouds of smoke out of wispy gray cotton and crafting the perfect hypnotized possum eyeballs. The movie is better for it.