Fantastic Mr. Fox, flanked by loyal Opossum and demolitions expert Beaver.
What else are we thankful for this Thanksgiving? Well, for starters, the superb Fantastic Mr. Fox. As children, neither of us read this particular Roald Dahl book, and we didn’t know what we were getting into except that it was directed by one of our favorites, Wes Anderson.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was filmed using stop-motion animation and wasn’t short on chapter titles, one of Anderson’s highly stylized tricks, to mark different scenes. The voices (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, among others) and dialogue are pitch-perfect. Of course Bill Murray would play a badger, of course Michael Gambon was the skinny, slightly-crazed and drunk corporate villain, and of course Owen Wilson was the Whackbat coach. (What’s Whackbat? See the film to find out; we promise it’s cooler than quidditch.)
The film is visually stunning and the music catchy, but like Anderson’s other films, Fox sticks with the viewer because of individual moments. It’s hard not to tear up when Mrs. Fox tells her husband that she’s pregnant; it’s difficult not to laugh when Ash (Schwartzman) tells his crush that she’s a “disloyal” lab partner for flirting with Ash’s cousin Kristofferson in chemistry class; and it’s nearly impossible not to be struck (with awe? inspiration? the beauty of the wild world?) by the sublime moment near the end of the film when Mr. Fox and a wolf sharing a long distance fist salute.
Other perks? A Jarvis Cocker song; Mr. Fox’s versatility with Latin names; the rampant but child-friendly cussing; and Willem Dafoe’s character, a menacing rat, whose body and speech habits invoke Jesus from The Big Lebowski.
Those of you who are Wes Anderson devotees will note the striking similarities between Mr. Fox and Royal Tenenbaum (not to mention Danny Ocean), and likewise with Ash and Chas Tenenbaum. Of course, every Wes Anderson film bears some relation to one another, which in our book is only a good thing.