While I wasn’t always a fan of director Wes Anderson’s previous works (though I’ve since warmed up to the majority of them), his most recent production took an even stranger turn than his films usually do: into stop-motion animation. Fantastic Mr. Fox saw a return to the animation style of old that few even bother with anymore. But for Anderson’s first foray into PG rated fair, he opted to take his usual cast of actors (with an addition of George Clooney and Meryl Streep) and toss them into a world of hairy puppets with some decidedly strange looking animation at times. But that’s all part of the charm with Mr. Fox, which is probably the most edgy and entertaining “kids” movie that adults will see for quite some time.
Academy Award-winning Hollywood heavyweights George Clooney (Up In The Air) and Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated) lend their voices to the hilarious, heartwarming and dazzling stop-motion animated adventure from visionary director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenebaums) Fantastic Mr. Fox, arriving as a Blu-ray Disc/DVD Combo Pack and on DVD March 23 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. In there-imagined classic family tale, Mr. and Mrs. Fox (Clooney and Streep) live a happy home life with their eccentric son Ash (Jason Schwartzman: The Darjeeling Limited) and visiting nephew Kristopherson. That is until Mr. Fox slips into his sneaky, old ways and plots the greatest heist the animal world has ever seen. When mean old farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean join forces to surround Mr. Fox and his family, they don’t realize they are not dealing with any old fox – it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and he has a fantastic master plan to save the day!
My first reaction to trailers for this film was “wow that is some weird ass stop motion going on.” The models were very basic and almost thrown-together looking. But when I actually sat down and watched the movie I realized that, yeah, while the puppetry is crude at times, it also has a certain beauty about it. Everything may be thin and gangly for the most part, but the animation of it all is also quite magnificent to look upon. The quality and fluidity of it is quite astonishing; on one hand it looks budget-made but on the other you can tell it was intentionally done this way (which may have cost more to do it like that, who knows). But overall it doesn’t really matter—the film has legs simply because of the story and as quirky as it may be, you’ll quickly realize why it’s the way it is once you realize that it’s from the same writer as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
It’s interesting to see how much this film adapted from the book and what Anderson himself added. I was shocked to find out it was surprisingly little—some extra backstory on Mr. Fox himself and a bit more coherency in the ending, but as far as I could tell from the research I did it was pretty faithful to the story. I shouldn’t be too surprised through—Roald Dahl’s childrens books have always had some quirkiness to them so the fit between the original story and Anderson’s stop-motion version were probably not all that different to begin with. Anderson has always had some of the most eclectic and interesting characters adorn his movies and Fantastic Mr. Fox really seemed to fit his way of story-telling like a glove.
The story itself in the film is rather straightforward, but it deals with very adult issues at times which really surprised me. The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Fox is surprisingly strained and the things that their son Ash and nephew Kristopherson go through are rather mature in nature. It’s great that the film doesn’t dumb itself or talk down to the audience, but considering how mature some of the content was in 80s and 90s children’s’ films that went right over their head, I doubt what we get here is going to harm any young ones minds—they’ll likely just be bored during the more serious discussions and instead await for the antics of Mr. Fox on the screen and his revenge against Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Which, admittedly, the antics are pretty hilarious—especially the finale, which does seem a bit contradictory to the whole theme that the film was getting across as they once lived above-ground in trees and whatnot and now they’re forced to live in the sewers…a decidedly different fate that one would have imagined for them, but as random as the ending seems to be, it’s presented in such a way that it still feels as if it fits with the rest of the production.
There are a lot of moral lessons wrapped up in this films entertainment, which I honestly have no complaints with. As I’m sure the original Dahl book did the same kind of treatment to the story (as all children’s books often do), but Anderson must also be praised for his truly exceptional work on the film. It’s under an hour and a half long, but it is an amazingly entertaining hour and a half, with a unique bit of visual shenanigans going on at various turns (that cut-away bit of the animals digging through the ground was a very, very interesting cut-away shot) to keep things interesting. Plus the all-star cast was always great to hear from; while I’m usually a proponent of “use voice actors for animated productions!,” in this case the entire cast just worked out magnificently.
Overall Fantastic Mr. Fox is just that—fantastic. It’s both an entertaining children’s movie and a satisfying tale for adults and while it might be difficult to get over the very strange visual effects at first, it’s worth it in the end as the story is something that is truly superb. Highly Recommended.
Fox releases Fantastic Mr. Fox in the greatest combination pack ever to be invented: Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy. Yes, it’s kind of a waste that Fox put the digital copy on a separate disc so you end up with a three-disc set, but it’s still nice that they’re following the trend that Disney started (and a trend that Warner has gone full-bore with, doing it with all of their films and not just with children’s movies). The set boasts the usual amount of inserts inside the packed case and no exterior slipcover.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p affair and…well, its modern stop motion, did you expect anything less than perfect? The clarity is astounding and all of the little hairs on the stop-motion dolls are so crystal clear that you feel like you could reach out and touch them. True, this clarity does bring to life some of the visual peculiarities that comes with stop-motion, but I’m willing to forgive those for a transfer like this. Colors are vibrant and pop off the screen and just about every frame of this film is flawless in nature.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and it too is quite good. There is a lot of surround work here (although really only in the most subtle of ways—rarely does it make its presence known) and a surprising amount of LFE output too—gun shots and explosions and the like all thunder about in the room. Chickens clucking, doors unlocking, the pitter-patter of critter feet…it’s a very diverse sound field on this film, but sadly it’s not quite as spread out in the sound field as they are usually on Fox releases. Still not a bad soundtrack by any means, but not quite as exciting as the on-screen action is.
• Making Mr. Fox Fantastic
o The Look Of Fantastic Mr. Fox
o From Script To Screen
o The Puppet Makers
o Still Life (Puppet Animation)
o The Cast
o Bill And His Badger
• A Beginner’s Guide To Whack-Bat
• Fantastic Mr. Fox: The World Of Roald Dahl
Yup, that second disc is literally just the single disc DVD release of this film—guess that’s why Fox didn’t want to cram the digital copy on there. It’s curious that there are repeat extras between the two discs, but I guess Fox just didn’t want to print an entirely new DVD disc for this release. Of course the third disc is just the digital copy, so nothing overly exciting there.
The extras themselves are quite great to watch, as the making-of on the Blu-ray side is quite in-depth and covers a whole series of different elements of the film. Plus they’re all in high-definition (majority in 1080p, although the Dahl extra is in 1080i) and look about as good as the film itself does.
Overall Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great package on Blu-ray and a Recommended outing.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.