Sunday, November 15, 2009

fantastic is right!

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.


Claire said...

I didn't love Rushmore either. Maybe it's a boy thing. However, I did like Darjeeling Limited more than you I'd guess. I'd probably rank it #2 after Royal Tenenbaums of Anderson films I've seen (also Life Aquatic), but maybe that's because the technicality of shooting on an actual train was so interesting to me.

Skimmed the rest as I like to know as little as possible once I know I want to see something. Sounds like TFMF is worth a shot.

Cheryl said...

I've still never given the Life Aquatic a fair shot--every time I pop the DVD in, I seem to be dead tired and end up falling asleep, no fault of the movie. As AK will testify, this is a bit of a chronic problem for me.

Peter Varvel said...

Dahl rules!

Michael DeAntonio said...

The Royal Tenenbaums is his best by far. Rushmore is ok and Life Aquatic was horrible. Completely horrible.

That still won't deter me from seeing this Fox movie.

Jamie Asaye FitzGerald said...

It's interesting the see these vastly differing opinions about Wes Anderson's movies. I loved Rushmore, but my love was fickle. It's now probably my least fave of his films. The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums are tops for me. Even still, I find some of the quirky things he does a bit annoying, but I'm looking forward to FMF after reading your review!

Prince Gomolvilas said...

Not a big Wes Anderson fan here either, but I've now see Fantastic Mr. Fox twice--it's awesome--so funny, exciting, joyous. Yay!