It's always a good sign when you're an adult in a movie marketed for kids and you find yourself laughing louder than the restless children in the audience. Albeit, it's a tad embarrassing too, but a good sign for the movie none the less. It's that funny.
It might even be more embarrassing to admit that I don't think I ever read the book in my youth. I get the feeling that this is one of those stories that every kid has read. But somehow Mr. Fox got away from me then. Thankfully, this time around, I nabbed him.
As it turns out The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a family man who just can't shake his cleptomanical nature that presumably runs in the genes of all foxes. The man can't help it – he has to steal chickens. And cider.
It's hard to blame him for not putting down something that he's really good at. He's able to concoct convoluted, colorful strategies that usually go according to plan. Usually. His accomplice is a spaced-out possum who lacks the guile of Mr. Fox, but that's okay. Mr. Fox has more then enough brains to make up for the two of them. What he lacks is restraint. Consequently, he does two things that every thief is prone to do: 1) Get greedy. 2) Return to the scene of the crime. The second offense is the worst. Mr. Fox has looted-out three farmers who do not part ways with their products and property easily. War is declared, and much to the dismay of Mr. Fox, his family and friends are dragged into the mess he created. The chase is on.
But these are foxes. So the chase doesn't happen above ground. Instead, they go underground. Digging so deep that the background scenery takes on undiscovered cave drawings. Weeks later they dig even deeper, taking refuge among fossils from, I don't know, maybe the Jurassic period. That's how determined these farmers are to get Mr. Fox and his kin – and how desperate Mr. Fox and friends are to get away. Such is the survival story of Mr. Fox and the clever humor of the movie. I've always been a fan of subtle humor; preferring to be teased and not bludgeoned with a punch-line. In which case, Fantastic Mr. Fox is my kind of movie. The jokes are not at all belabored. They not only move fast, but they move on. So if you miss one, not to worry. Another one is right behind it. Between the fast-talking Mr. Fox, his spaced-out possum partner and the great gags lingering around in the background, I found it hard to not laugh through the whole movie.
Wes Anderson, the director, was wise to go with the voice of George Clooney as our clepto-hero. Clooney's smooth talking, slightly grainy voice is perfect for an animal that is just a little too smooth to be wholly wild and a little too wild to be tame and domesticated. Every line by Clooney is delivered pitch-perfect and I think it says something about ol' boy that he plays a crafty fox so well. People magazine may have voted Clooney as sexiest man alive some years ago, but I nominate him as sharpest man alive. He's as sharp as a whip.. and a fox.
Last but not least, there's something refreshing about seeing a movie in stop-motion. Not that I have anything against 3D animation, but there's so much of it that I almost forgot that there were other ways of bringing characters to life on the screen. Unfortunately, this one may not be on the big screen for much longer, since it has only pulled in $20 million at the Box Office. But maybe it's better to have this one on DVD anyway. It seems like the kind of movie that gets even better on multiple viewings. Not to mention, I can look forward to laughing as loud as I want without worry of exceeding the sounds of kids and rustling popcorn bags by a few decibels.
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