Monday, 27 February 2012
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Title: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Director: Wes Anderson
Staring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Chase Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wison, Robin Hurlstone, Hugo Guinness
Plot: Having turned his back on his poaching days, Mr. Fox (Clooney) now lives with his wife Felicity (Streep) and their sullen son Ash (Schwartzman) in a hole, while working as a newspaper columnist, while also looking after Felicity’s nephew Kristofferson (Anderson).
Craving a better home, he moves the family into the base of a tree, despite warnings from his lawyer Badger (Murray) about the three mean farmers living close by, Boggis (Hurlstone), Bunce (Guinness) and Bean (Gambon), triggering a desire in Mr. Fox to pull off one final raid.
Review: My acting resume is limited to say the least, mainly because I really suck as an actor, though while in school I did managed to con my way into what would be my closest appearance in a leading role, when I appeared as “Mr. Badger” in my school’s production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” which although ambitious for a school play with its creative production values, now seems positively timid and boring in comparison to this latest interpretation of the classic kids book, which takes the term “Artistic license” to a whole new level!
Despite being a self confessed fan of Roald Dahl, Director Anderson clearly has few qualms in chopping and changing such a well known story to suit his own vision, especially as this is a very different / alternative version than the original, were as in the original novel, the animal characters despite portraying human characteristics were still very clearly still animals, but here they hold down careers and even have their own secret society out of the view of humans, while Anderson has also edited the Fox family down to one moody child and his cousin from the original four fox children they have in the book.
Still despite such radical chops and changes, I was surprising how few grumbles have appeared about taking such creative leaps with the source material, as I expected when I learned about how different the film version was to the book, yet somehow he has managed to make it work, not only in managing to shoot it in his quirky indie style, which has made him such a memorable force in indie film making, but also makes the audience effortless buy into his alternative vision, which is certainly no easy thing especially when most folks don’t tend to take kindly to directors attempting to basterdise their happy childhood memories of the book.
Choosing to shoot in Stop motion it brings a refreshing old school style to the film, especially with CGI being the usual preferred method for adapting projects of this type (god help us if they ever tried to do a live action version) and a method which has previously proven to work effectivly when done well, with prime examples being the films of “Aardman Animation” aswell as most memorably “A Nightmare Before Christmas”, whose director Henry Selick was originally drafted on board to help develop the project while it was being developed at “Revolution Studios”, only to leave the project to direct “Coraline” when “Revolution Studios folded, leading to Mark Gustafson being brought in to replace him, whose background in claymation might explain the frequently noticeable adjustments on the characters, were they have been adjusted for each shot, rather than the more polished look of “Nightmare before Christmas” were it is impossible to see any of these adjustments, still this really only adds to the retro styling which Anderson has chosen to adopt for the film, bringing back early childhood memories of both “The Clangers” and “The Wombles”, while also an expansion on his previous stop motion dabbling we saw with the underwater creations in “The Life Aquatic”, were it seemed like a quirky touch but now seems to hint at more of an hidden obsession after seeing this film.
Anderson has once again managed to assemble a first rate cast, with Clooney seemingly born to voice Mr. Fox, while Dafoe seems to be bringing the essence of Bobby Peru from “Wild at Heart” for his portrayal of Rat, who in the book was much more of smaller character and under Defoe’s sinister vocal styling’s becomes a much stronger character with his increased presence, much like Gambon’s portrayal of “Bean” who is now seen as the ringleader of the three famers, rather than just a follower caught up in the plot. Anderson alumni Murry is once again on great form as “Badger” and has many of the best lines of the film, which makes it only the more of shame that he is reduced from sidekick status to supporting animal here.
Released alongside Spike Jonze’s “Were the Wild Things Are” it was a double header of indie takes on established classics, but it was certainly Anderson’s which would not only prove the boldest, but also the most memorable of the two and while it might only share a handful of memorable scenes with it’s source material it is still a fun and frequently amusing watch, which manages to stand well in a comparison to source novel, while it might appeal more to the adults than it’s intended younger audience, who may find it’s stop motion stylising a little alienating, especially after growing up on a diet of polished animation, much like Anderson’s traditionally obscure soundtrack choices, as it’s hard to say if the kids of today really get anything out of hearing the famers digging up the foxes home to the tune of “Street Fighting Man” or not. Needless to say for those of us, willing to allow alittle tampering with our childhood and establishing members of the Anderson fanbase this is an easy sell.